If we start from the premise that any training or learning and development investment is an investment in the individuals that participate in that training event, then it follows that those individuals are the ones who are best suited to determine the worth and merit of that training event. Isn’t this obvious and don’t most organizations allow for that? The answer is sadly no.
Surveying the participants is definitely the right move but not before, during or immediately after the training event. It is about allowing a span of time to pass so integration or learning transfer occurs. It is only when the participants are back on their jobs facing the realities of unexpected challenges and ever-changing conditions that they can determine how the training investment better equipped them to succeed. This determination may change with time and this is why it makes sense to measure it more than once at different intervals.
Therefore, what is the question we need to ask at different intervals after the training event? The answers to this two-part question, when documented and systematically organized, can demonstrate the link between learning investments and positive business results. We’d like to suggest it is: Since you participated in XYZ training event, how have you improved yourself and what results have you achieved due to those improvements?
It really can be that simple.
To learn more about this approach, take a look at our new article in CLO Magazine on the value of documentation: http://bit.ly/1OtIqRd
Could a generic or off-the-shelf eLearning course change your behavior? Most likely it can’t because it is generic and even though it might have some examples these might not apply to the specific situations your employees will face. Could a generic eLearning course change your attitude or how you think about something? Perhaps it can if the content is valid and the generic e-Learning course has been well designed. However, does changing your thinking about something guarantee that you will change your behavior? The answer quite simply is no, nothing can guarantee it (think about how many times you read a life changing health practice and then failed to apply it) but you can put the odds in your favor.
Now let’s consider the following: can changing behavior change the way we think about something? The answer is yes. Ultimately it is behavior that counts since it is what impacts the world around us. How can behavior change our thinking? Let’s consider some examples where this might seem obvious. The first is dressing differently (a behavior). When we are dressed in fancy, expensive clothes or in a uniform, we tend to change how we stand, how we talk, and how we perceive ourselves. Another example is when we force ourselves to smile (a behavior). In the beginning, it might feel awkward and fake, but as we maintain the smile we start feeling happy (thinking happy thoughts). If you are still not convinced, try the smile technique on your own (perhaps do so in private so people around you don’t think you are crazy!)
So how do you increase the odds of a behavior change occurring after an eLearning course? You not only provide relevant, valid and compelling content to impact how people think about an issue or as Peter Senge of Harvard would describe, change the mental models people hold to interpret what is around them, but you also provide examples that are specific to the challenges and situations your employees will face. Modeling the right behavior within the appropriate context can be achieved only through a custom eLearning course that has been designed based on your employees’ specific needs and challenges. When the behaviors are made explicit in this manner, the gap between knowing something and being able to execute on it, or what Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton coined “The Knowing-Doing Gap,” is shortened. It is still not a guarantee people will change their behavior as this responsibility ultimate lies with the individual, but the odds will definitely be in your favor.