Unless you have been locked in a time capsule for the past 20 years, you’ve most likely heard about the importance of coaching employees. There are a plethora of resources including books written about coaching, TED Talks, coaching courses, and endless search results on Google. It’s a top skill for managers within an organization. Because of its importance, talent development professionals are often called upon to develop and deliver courses that help leaders further build and improve their coaching skills. But how do you know if coaching training makes an impact?
Hypothetical Case StudySuppose an organization, let’s call it ACME Company, wants a coaching curriculum developed and delivered; the primary audience being director level managers. ACME’s talent development team put together a coaching curriculum in which participants found great benefit in practice scenarios, and the training course ended up receiving rave reviews. Would you call this a success? On the surface, it would seem like an obvious yes. It was well-received and classroom exercises indicate the directors obtained knowledge and could demonstrate the skills in class.
However, to truly determine whether the course was a success, the ultimate questions are:
- How did the coaching curriculum impact ACME Company overall?
- Did it make a difference for the company?
We know the course evaluations met the criteria for two levels of the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation:
- Level 1: the participants’ reaction to the course, including satisfaction, engagement and relevance
- Level 2: the participants demonstrated their knowledge and skills, perhaps even confidence with the skill during the practice scenarios
What about Level 3 and Level 4? These are the holy grail of evaluation; highly prized and difficult to obtain. However, you need to measure at these levels to determine a course or curriculum’s true success. Level 3 shows the degree to which participants take what they learned and apply it on the job. The pinnacle, Level 4, represents the degree to which participants reach the stated outcomes as a result of training, or at least are on track to reach the outcomes. Stated outcomes reach far past the course objectives; outcomes define what is needed to impact strategic goals for the organization.
Granted, higher levels of evaluation can be harder to gauge and often challenging to measure. It takes time and significant effort to gather and analyze data for application and organizational impact.
Giving More Time to Levels 3 and 4To begin implementing Levels 3 and 4 of evaluation, set an expectation with stakeholders about your intent to measure the impact the coaching program and share your methodology for obtaining this data. This can typically be done during the needs assessment. A significant barrier for a talent development professional emanates from stakeholders being unable to articulate the desired outcomes in a way that is measurable. When this happens, you can coach the stakeholders through the process of identifying outcomes that will aid you in evaluation.
An effective approach to identifying outcomes is asking “How” and “What.” What do you want to achieve with this curriculum? How will that impact the organization? How do we measure the impact? Perhaps stakeholders want better employee engagement scores. They believe scores will improve if managers practice effective coaching skills while developing their employees. Course impact can be measured by comparing past engagement survey results prior to the coaching with engagement surveys completed after the training.
When armed with adequate information, the talent development professional can determine the evaluation process before beginning course development. Just like it’s a best practice to write a course exam early in the development process, creating an evaluation plan early is crucial for success.
Will, or even should, you do this for every course you create? No, it’s just not feasible. However, if you have a hallmark, high-visibility coaching or mentoring program, make the effort to measure Levels 3 and 4 for it. Demonstrating impact using Levels 3 and 4 gives your program more credibility, and that success can earn talent development a place at the senior leadership table.