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Going Beyond Smile Sheets...
How Do We Know If Training Is Effective?

By Jeanie McKay
NOVA Quality Communications

The term "evaluation" actually means "to determine value," and as proven by the quotes above, end-of-course training evaluations are definitely relative. What is of value to one may not necessarily be the same to another. While high marks on end-of-class evaluations are food for the soul for trainers, their trainees typically rank info-tainment and classes that go by quickly very high. On the other hand, managers focus on what is most valuable to them, ... "fixed" employees!

As professional process "improvers" and data analysts, we spend our weeks reviewing manufacturing processes, determining plans for measurement, charting and making decisions based upon what our data shows us. But the funny thing is, when it comes to applying the same systematic methodology to our own training, we fall flat.

You know the routine. The exhausting training day winds to a close, and trainees gather their materials before bolting for the door. We humbly pass out our evaluations and remind everyone that we have kids in college. The trainees rapidly circle numbers or smiley faces and hit the road. We swipe erasers over the board, slide the chairs under the tables, wipe up the left-over donut crumbs and dart our curious eyes over to the stack of evaluations to see how well we did.

As our eyes quickly scan the columns, we let out a sign of relief as we see many circled "10s." And when we encounter an occasional low-end mark on someone’s rating sheet, we quickly do a mental roll call to figure out who the class sorehead was this time around.

Funny thing... the evaluations somehow tell us how "we" did...and not "them." After all, our management grades us on these subjective indicators!