Are Training Evaluation Forms the Best Vehicle for Thorough Employee Feedback?

Gathering training feedback has multiple core objectives, and it’s essential that all stakeholders involved in Learning and Development (L&D) are aligned on those goals.

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Are Training Evaluation Forms the Best Vehicle for Thorough Employee Feedback?

Here's what you need to know about are training evaluation forms the best vehicle for thorough employee feedback?:

  • Employee perception of the efficacy of training is a critical gauge of whether the instruction will have an impact.
  • Communicate early and often about the nature of the evaluation form and how the data will be used.
  • Building trust with employees is a critical prerequisite for gathering meaningful feedback.

It’s the end of a long day of training. Employees are excited to go home or maybe head to happy hour. However, before letting them go, you need to place a final piece of the puzzle to wrap up a great training: feedback. While it might not be the most popular part of the day, it’s a critical one.

  • Should you have employees fill out training evaluation forms at the end of their training?
  • Is it the best way to gather feedback?

Before answering these questions, we need to align on what exactly we’re hoping to accomplish. Why would we want to gather feedback in the first place? If we don’t have alignment there, training evaluation forms might not be an effective use of your employees’ time.

Why gather training feedback

Gathering training feedback has multiple core objectives, and it’s essential that all stakeholders involved in Learning and Development (L&D) are aligned on those goals. This is particularly important given that there are two perspectives on the success of a given training:

  • The employee’s
  • The company’s

While they may vary from organization to organization, the objectives should generally include the following.

Confirm employees found the training met its stated objectives

Employee perception of the efficacy of training is a critical gauge of whether the instruction will have an impact. While it’s possible for training to be effective without employees thinking it was, in general, this will be a critical piece of the puzzle for determining if the training was adequately designed to meet the objectives.

Success starts with clearly defined objectives for feedback gathering.

Employees must be clear on the specific training objectives and outcomes before participating. A wide range of responses on this topic may indicate the issue was not with the training itself but with the communication to employees about the training program’s goals.

Identify areas of improvement

Training feedback should always seek to identify ways to improve the training. Were there topics that needed more focus? Less? Was the training sufficiently interactive? Was the pre-work effective?

Depending on the training topic, feedback gathering should have a heavy focus on identifying ways the training can be more effective, particularly for recurring programs that are run frequently.

Provide data for measuring training efficacy

The evaluation form must ask questions like:

  • How confident did you feel doing X before the training?
  • How confident do you feel now that you’ve completed the course?”

These questions can provide compelling data points for demonstrating the training’s effectiveness. Now, it’s important to remember that this only considers the employee’s subjective perspective, so additional metrics that independently demonstrate business impact may be needed depending on the training.

For example, sales training focused on effective negotiation skills should consider both the employee’s perspective on the improvement of their abilities as well as the impact on sales negotiations over a predefined period following the training.

Building a culture of trust around feedback

At this point, there’s alignment around exactly what we want to learn from employee feedback. Our next consideration needs to be: how can we ensure that employees feel comfortable providing genuine and honest feedback?

A major potential pitfall of training evaluation forms is feedback from employees who feel they need to say what they think the company wants to hear, not what they genuinely think.

In fact, in 2021, Gallop found that employee engagement dropped for the first time in over a decade. Between the impact of the pandemic and uncertain economic conditions, feedback gathering is both more challenging and more important than ever. However, building trust with employees is a critical prerequisite for gathering meaningful feedback. Without trust, feedback will be generic and generally unhelpful.

Employees are far more likely to put effort into providing genuine and detailed feedback if they can count on their responses being kept anonymous and if they believe that the company genuinely intends to take action on their feedback.

Forbes suggests a lot of great tactics for developing a culture that promotes honest feedback, all of which are aimed at building trust. In short, employees are far more likely to put effort into providing genuine and detailed feedback if they can count on their responses being kept anonymous and if they believe that the company genuinely intends to take action on their feedback.

Make sure to communicate early and often about the nature of the evaluation form and how the data will be used to make sure employees feel more confident that their privacy will be respected and that action will be taken based on their feedback.

What’s right for your business?

So, you’ve agreed on why you’re going to ask for feedback. You’ve also worked to foster a culture of trust around feedback. Is a training evaluation form delivered at the end of a training session the right tool? The short answer is: experiment and find out.

When gauging the efficacy of a feedback process, the key questions are:

  • Is this a representative sample of the training participants?
  • Did the open-ended feedback provide meaningful and compelling data points that suggest employees felt comfortable sharing their thoughts?
  • Did the mechanism provide the data needed to accomplish the feedback process’ objectives?

If the answer is ‘no’ to any of the items above, you may need to consider alternative feedback options like live interviews, or you might need to reevaluate the feedback process to improve its efficacy. Make sure to always leverage evaluation form & survey best practices to write compelling questions.

When you want to improve training evaluation forms, be aware of the most common challenges, which we will discuss below.

Small sample size

Many organizations struggle with low response rates on evaluation forms. If you aren’t able to deliver them to a captive audience (i.e., employees sitting in a conference room at the end of a live training session), try the following:

  • Be Concise – eliminate all unnecessary steps & questions
  • Be Timely – deliver the evaluation form as close to the training event as possible
  • Involve Managers – make managers your champions and remind them why this data will help their teams improve
  • Show Action – prove to employees that feedback doesn’t end up in a void – demonstrate action that came directly from their feedback

Lack of honest feedback

Concerns that employees don’t feel comfortable providing genuine feedback are common. Potential remedies include:

  • Making the evaluation fully anonymous
  • Ensuring data will be fully anonymized before being shared
  • Clearly communicating exactly how the data will be used and who will see it
  • If needed, consider engaging an independent and impartial third party who can anonymously tabulate and compile the information

Feedback objectives not met

If you can’t accomplish the feedback objectives outlined above, you may need to revisit the content of your training evaluation forms to see if they can be improved.

  • If employees weren’t answering a question as intended, could the question be more straightforward?
  • Can you adjust the questions to provide more meaningful data—i.e., something like removing a ‘neutral’ option and forcing an ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’?
  • Do additional questions need to be added?
  • Are survey best practices not being followed? For example, did the evaluation form include something like “Did the training provide sufficient detail and an opportunity to put that detail into practice?” (those are two separate questions, making the question confusing to the employee and will not provide clear results to the company)

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to gathering feedback on employee training.

Experimentation is key

At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to gathering feedback on employee training. However, success starts with clearly defined objectives for feedback gathering. From there, L&D professionals or business owners can refine the strategy & content of their evaluation forms and ultimately decide whether they are an effective tool for meeting the business’ feedback objectives.

An effective feedback loop ensures that employee training is making a difference. It also provides critical tools for measuring that impact on employee engagement and overall business performance.

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