Ask the Right Training Analysis Questions
Ever heard the axiom "if you don't ask the right questions, you won't get the right answers"? When it comes to solving your training problems, you absolutely need the right answers. This article will review the seven training analysis questions you should be asking in order to get them.
Training analysis is about making training effective and getting the most out of your learning program. It answers questions like:
- What should this training look like?
- How can it be improved?
- What is training accomplishing for us?
Since training programs evolve as they progress, effective analysis continues throughout the life of program. Key stages are:
- Needs analysis: Organizational needs are assessed and solutions, which may include training, are identified.
- Formative analysis: As a training program is developed, ongoing analysis ensures necessary material is covered and training takes appropriate forms.
- Summative analysis: Once a program is implemented, its delivery and effect are analyzed.
So that's what you need to know, but how do you go about finding it out? You start by asking the right questions.
1. What are your goals?
If you're looking at training, it's because you have a problem your organization needs to overcome. Whether you're concerned about complying with health and safety regulations, employees who aren't following processes, implementing a new process, or facilitating career development, there's something you want to accomplish.
Embarking on a training program without clearly defined program goals is an excellent (and common) way of wasting significant amounts of money and effort, so it's important to establish what, exactly you are hoping to achieve. This benchmark is doubly important, because it's also the foundation for future analysis. After all, you can't answer "how well are we meeting our goals?" without first having documented goals that all stakeholders have agreed on.
2. Is training the best way to achieve your goals?
Once you've established your goals, the question becomes how best to achieve them. This is a key question both during the Needs Analysis (NA) phase and later, during formative and summative analyses. If your existing training program isn't producing the results you need, it could be because training isn't the right way to get those results.
There's an organizational tendency to assume that training is the way you get employees to do what you want them to and follow prescribed processes. While it is part of the answer, it's not the only factor that matters. Perhaps employees already know the recommended procedure or at least have the resources to learn it, but other pressures and influences are pushing them in a different direction.
3. What is the most effective way to present learning material?
How material is presented has a significant effect on the success of a training program. You'll want to pick the right format in the development stage and verify that the format remains appropriate through program implementation and delivery. Learner characteristics and the type of material being delivered will determine the best format.
Learner characteristics include issues such as:
- Education and background: Learning material must be presented at an appropriate level for the audience.
- Organizational culture: Will a less formal presentation enhance learner engagement or cause a loss of credibility?
- Availability: Are learners available for a hands-on demonstration or workshop, or is the audience widely distributed? Will learners have a block of time to dedicate to training, or do they have to fit it in in bits and pieces?
- Accessibility: Even the most obvious issues with accessibility can be overlooked. Gary Morison tells of a case where a learning program was developed for teachers of students with hearing loss. It was delivered on audio tape, at which point the developers discovered that many of their learners also experienced hearing loss.
Accessibility should be considered even when issues are less evident. There is little excuse today for building barriers into training programs. To learn more about some of the basic changes that can make training accessible, check out 8 Ways to Make eLearning Accessible.
The type of material being presented also plays a role in determining an appropriate format. For example, complex subjects are not effectively delivered via microlearning, while training in physical skills or tasks should involve hands-on experience and practice opportunities. Formats to consider include:
- Online modules
- On-job training or mentoring
- Job aids
- Inverted training
- Social learning
4. What do learners think of the training?
No training analysis is complete without learner input. Learner engagement is critical to training program success, and no one is in a better position to describe learner perspectives and identify the difficulties they're experiencing than the learners themselves.
Consider asking the following questions on course evaluations or other learner surveys:
- What did you expect to gain from this experience? You won't get engagement if your goals aren't in line with your learners', so make sure you find out what your learners' goals are.
- Do you think you will use what you learned here? The ultimate goal of training is to change behavior, so always ask learners if they expect to change what they're doing.
- How did this course fit with your existing schedule? Learners will be glad to identify issues with scheduling and delivery.
- List two ways the training could be improved. Learners may have excellent recommendations for improvement, but you're likely to miss them if you phrase the question "Do you have any recommendations for improving the training?".
5. Are learners learning what we need them to?
You might be thinking that this question is obvious. That's the point of including assessments, isn't it? No, actually. A good assessment will identify what learners know. That's an important question too, but it's not the same as asking what they learned.
Two ways to winnow out what was learned from what people already knew are:
- Pre- and post-tests: Assess learners both before and after training.
- Cohort comparison: Assess a group of learners who have completed the training and compare them to learners who have not.
Establishing what learners gained from a training experience is the first step in determining the real value of your training.
6. Are learners using what they learned?
The next step is to find out how (or whether) learners are using what they learned. Learning can be an end in itself for personal development, but it's only meaningful to an organization when it affects performance.
Tools for identifying behavioral change include:
- Ongoing or time-delayed assessments
- Interviews with supervisors and co-workers
- On-job observation checklists
- Self-assessments and trainee interviews
7. Is our training cost-effective?
Analyzing training design and learner outcomes are preliminary steps to resolving the big question: does this training add value to the organization?
In most organizations, this is a financial question that comes down to return on investment (ROI). The ROI calculation compares the cost of developing and running a training program to its monetary benefits to the organization. To learn the details of training ROI calculations, download our Complete Guide to Training Analysis and free ROI Calculator.
In this article, we've discussed the questions that will provide the answers you need to analyze a training program. Defining what you want to accomplish paves the way for deciding how best to accomplish it. Once you have a training program, it's time to fine-tune it. What are learners learning, what are they doing with their learning, and what do they think of the process? Use the answers to improve and update the program to maximize its effectiveness. And finally, find out how effective your training is to answer the big question: is it worth it?
Sarah is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems and is currently completing a PhD in Educational Technology. Her research focuses on implementing competency-based learning systems in all types of organizations. When she doesn't have her nose in a book you can find her at the gym, on the ice, on the ski hill, drinking wine or in a coffee shop … with her nose in a book.