Evaluating Training Across Cultures

Only one time in my professional career did I hear a business executive say he did not believe in training. He told me that he felt people were either born with the skills or were not. We were discussing leadership. Whether he realized it or not, his view was based on “Trait Theory,” an assumption popular in the USA during the 1940s about leadership, but now considered limited. Today, almost everyone understands the role of nurture along with nature. Everyone seems to embrace a concept of training – whether apprenticeships or nonformal instruction.

All training has learning objectives – knowing, being, and doing. Trainers shoot at a fixed target. Think of how funny it would appear if an archer launched an arrow in a random direction, but then chased after it with a target in hand. Funny…even foolish.

Organizations determine what a person needs to know, be, and do in order to accomplish a task that contributes to overall purposes. Skilled trainers assess where trainees are in those knowing, being, and doing objectives. The difference between where trainees are and what the task requires is the training criterion.

How do trainers evaluate whether training has been effective. Donald Kirkpatrick (2006) offers four levels of evaluation in his timeless book Evaluating Training Programs. Below are questions that reflect my adaptation of Kirkpatrick’s four levels:

  1. Do they like it? This question relates to the affective domain of learning. The intervention of training must be enjoyable. Success in this question requires an understanding of the characteristics of informal learning. In instructional design there is no more important factor than the affective domain.
  2. Do they get it? This question has to do with understanding. Is it easy?
  3. Can they do it? This question has to do with skills. Is the training effective?
  4. Did it make a difference? Ultimately, if the intervention of training does not make a difference qualitatively and quantitatively in the organization’s purposes, then the intervention is: (a) fundamentally disrespectful of people and (b) corporately unprofitable.

OK, let’s say you get this. Training is needed, has objectives, and can be evaluating given Kirkpatrick’s template. However, what adaptations should be made for training and evaluating training across cultures? Do not assume it is the same. Global Perspectives Consulting can help.

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