In this article, Tina Mertel, Founder of Meaningful Coaching, explores some tips to make sure participants are getting the most of out of their training.

One client recently told me her firm used a facilitator for three teambuilding sessions and so far she hadn’t received any value. She went on to explain she wanted to give this facilitator a chance to show her skills. But now it was the 3rd session out of 3 sessions, and she hadn’t yet received any value.

How do you know if your participants are getting any value from what you teach? And how do you know they are getting so much value that they actually change a behavior or use a new skill? Hopefully, the Forgetting Curve will not take over – a theory created by Hermann Ebbinghaus, the founder of experimental psychology of memory. He proved that at the beginning of a training session a participant’s retention is 100% since this exactly the point in time when they actually learned the piece of information. As time goes on the retention drops sharply down to around 40% in the first couple of days!

I have found that 360-degree feedback can be a valuable resource to support skill development of the training participant, and show a return on investment on your training dollar. The American Psychological Association featured the rise of 360s in the article, Do 360 evaluations work?.

360-degree feedback is a process in which employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from the people who work around them (often organized into groups, such as employee’s manager/s, peers, direct reports, partners, and clients). There are several 360-degree feedback tools available in the marketplace from leadership competencies to emotional intelligence to team player skills. You can also create your own based on some of your star performers in a specific area. The Association for Talent Development is a good resource for creating a 360 – see td.org.

Before your training program, participants receive a 360-degree assessment to complete as a self-assessment and to distribute to others they work with. These scores serve as a baseline in a subject area. For example, I use an Emotional Intelligence 360 that measures competencies in the areas of self-management, relationship management, and communication. The participant comes to the training program knowing where they rate in these areas, and where to focus in the classroom.

Specific competencies of emotional intelligence include:

Engenders Trust, Strategic Problem Solving, Achievement Orientation, Two-Way Feedback, Oral Communication, Oral Presentation, Self-Development, Adaptability/Stress Tolerance, Self-Control, Building Strategic Relationships, Conflict Management, Leadership/Influence, Interpersonal Sensitivity/Empathy, Team/Interpersonal Support, Collaboration, Written Communication, and Listening.

Also doing a 360 before your program raises the bar of expectations not only from the participant but also from their feedback providers. In other words, if you are a feedback provider, you are expecting the recipient to do something proactive with your feedback – to improve upon the ratings that are low, and feel good about where the ratings are high. The participant ends up having more “skin in the game” and a reason for being in the classroom.

From an instructional design standpoint, you can design your program to focus on the lower scores of all participants by collecting the data before the workshop via an online system or have participants turn in paper versions for data collection (a more tedious process).

Another nice thing about seeing data before your workshop is you can pair up participants who are opposite to one another in certain skill sets. For example in Emotional Intelligence, I may pair up someone who scored high in empathy with someone who scored low in the same area. Not only can they learn from one another, but they can also become accountability partners after the workshop – answering to each other’s inquiry on how they are keeping up on a particular skill, and improving on their last results.

How you determine ROI is by having participants complete the same 360 they did before the workshop, along with getting the scores from the same feedback providers one month after the learning intervention. If the participant scores move upwards you can see the return on investment of your training program. (Or measure an entire year out from your program as highlighted in OD Journal.)

For example, a client scored low on self-control and moved a full point upwards across all feedback groups one month after the training took place. So one could see that the training and coaching paid off by seeing that others rated him at using the skills of self-control fairly often versus rarely before the training and coaching experience.

To go one step further if you can tie the competency to the participant’s performance development plan the participant may value an improvement in scores more than if they aren’t tied to it. The supervisor can also be involved in supporting this improvement in behavioral change.

Ensure your participants are getting value from your programs and your buyers are receiving a return on their investment by incorporating 360-degree assessments into your learning process.

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Tina Mertel

Tina Mertel, founder of Meaningful Coaching, www.meaningfulcoaching.com, provides training, consulting, and executive coaching to improve relationships and build leadership and influence skills in the workforce. Additional topics include: team building, communication skills, conflict prevention and management, emotional intelligence, SDI, DISC, MBTI, presentation skills, leadership presence, and wellness topics.
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