National Occupational Standards offer clear objectives and outcomes for learning programmes, unambiguous criteria for assessing learners and a transparent way of evaluating learning and development programmes – key if the effectiveness and impact of training and development activities is to be assessed and measured.
Steps to take:
Step 1 Measure current levels of performance, knowledge and skills
When a learning or development need is identified, the line manager and the individual will agree the way in which that need can best be met. The individual and the line manager should assess the current level of performance, knowledge and skills in relation to the identified need.
Use the relevant National Occupational Standard as the benchmark for this process.
Look at the statements of effective performance and the specifications of skills and knowledge and agree which the individual is currently competent in. Sometimes an individual will not be competent in any of these because it is a completely new area that they need to develop.
This measurement will then serve as a benchmark for assessing skills and knowledge after the development activity has taken place.
Measurement can be done in a variety of ways:
By formally assessing the current level of skill against the standards
Through a structured written test
Through a professional discussion
Through a pre-course questionnaire to cover the areas to be learned
Step 2 Measuring the reaction to the learning
At the end of a learning programme or activity you need to find out the learner’s reaction to it. There are various ways of doing this, depending on the type of learning opportunity.
A typical way with a training session is to:
Design a question and answer sheet covering: how they rated the presentation technique, how well topics were covered, how valuable they found it and how they plan to use their new skills back on the job
Set out a scoring system
Arrange for the collated responses to be sent to a specific person/section in HR
Arrange comparisons between this and other training activities and assess the effectiveness of the course as a learning tool
Another approach is to carry out a ‘Post-It’ exercise. The trainer sets up flipchart sheets with headings such as venue, course objectives, new things learned, etc., and learners write comments on post-it notes which they stick on the relevant flipchart sheet.
With other types of development opportunities it might be more appropriate to:
Have a brief discussion between the line manager and the member of staff
Complete an online questionnaire for an e-learning programme
Write a report after a conference or seminar
Step 3 Measure the level of learning that has taken place
After any learning opportunity, the trainer or line manager should measure the learning that has taken place. This might be done by:
A test or exam
An in-depth discussion between the manager and the individual
A questionnaire to see how much information has been acquired
Step 4 Calculate the impact of learning on the individual’s workplace performance
In addition to checking how much individuals have learned, you need to assess their competence and appraise their performance. Has the learning programme or activity helped learners to improve their performance in the workplace?
You will already have assessed their competence before the learning activity. Line managers should use the relevant units(s) of National Occupational Standards to assess the learner’s performance after a learning activity in order to measure how much improvement there has been.
Organisational barriers may inhibit such transfer of learning to the workplace.
Step 5 Calculate the impact of the learning on the organisational objectives
The impact of the learning and development on organisational objectives can be measured by the changes in the working environment.
For example, if staff are competent in the unit LA5 Provide information to clients, this might result in greater efficiency, increased client satisfaction and greater autonomy in clients being able to address their issues.
You may need to involve people with accounting skills to calculate the return on investment in learning and development. The calculation will need to analyse the costs of learning and development activities and put a value on the benefits they have delivered. This calculation is essential to meeting the Investors in People indicator 11: People understand the impact of the development of people on the performance of the organisation, teams and individuals.