Saturday, 9 May 2009

Feedback - food or fodder

Someone said that “feedback is the breakfast of Champions” – it’s a bit of a cliché I suppose but my recent series of posts about feedback hopefully shows that the way it is delivered can have quite an impact – be it positive or negative.

In my work at the moment I have been evaluating some initial feedback from training that is currently being rolled out on a global basis. The audience for the training is large (100,000 people) and diverse so designing an intervention for such an audience has certainly been a challenge. Results so far are encouraging and we are now looking at what we do with the information. The process has made me think about some key learnings that I wanted to share with you:

  • What are you trying to evaluate? For me there are broadly two kinds of things that are useful to evaluate:
    • Did the intervention meet your desired learning outcomes? Assuming you defined some learning outcomes (knowledge, skills and attitude), how will you know if people have achieved them? Without wishing to delve into a debate about evaluation and Kirkpatrick, it is often valuable to ask delegates how well they have met outcomes. For example asking them if they feel confident in their ability to do something new, whether they know where to go for help etc (assuming these are defined learning outcomes).
    • Was the method of delivery appropriate? You will probably be able to tell this from the answers to your first set of questions about learning outcomes. However it is useful to know why….was the course too fast, too slow; was the content pitched at the right level (eg. was it patronising); would they have preferred classroom/elearning; was it relevant etc.

  • How are you trying to collect evaluation data? There are many ways to obtain feedback from your audience and you need to select the most appropriate medium. This could be via a survey (preferably online) but could also include a more qualitative follow up approach via focus groups or one to one interviews (a recommended approach). It is important to always try and get a representative view using some statistics and then some analysis.

  • Look for themes. When faced with a ton of statistics from your survey results it may be quite daunting. However the first activity is to pull out some themes. Start at a high level – did we broadly meet our learning objectives. Then, drill down further – did we meet all the objectives fully, were some met better than others etc. Once you have some themes the next step is to get some qualitative information to validate the ‘why’ – use focus groups, workshops and interviews to explore the themes further.

  • Don’t just focus on the negative. I always find it tempting to look at the negative comments – what didn’t people like, what didn’t work… However it is really important to also understand what worked well…..and why. It is really important to understand the positive items if you are to be able to replicate them again in the future.

  • Make it easy for people to give feedback or provide an incentive. Most people aren’t too keen on providing feedback and often it is the people who have strong feelings (positive or negative) that will provide it. So it’s important to make it as easy as possible for people to contribute their views.
    • Try and collate the feedback as soon after the course/event as possible. The longer you wait the less likely people are to provide it.
    • Give people an incentive for sharing their views. This doesn’t have to be a prize but can be as simple as letting people know how important their views are and how it will help shape future courses/events

  • Follow up with delegates. They took some of their valuable time to share their views with you so the least they deserve is to know what the information will be used for. Provide a summary of the key themes (what worked, what needs some attention) and what actions will specifically be taken as a result. Oh and one other thing – remember to say thanks.

  • Do something with it. There is no point in collating the feedback if you are not going to do anything with it. Sounds obvious – but I have seen feedback ignored on a number of occasions. Even if the message can be hard to swallow you need to take some action. Also remember to pass on any learnings to other parts of your organisation that may find it useful. If people didn’t like an approach to online training in a particular part of the business then this could be valuable information.

I would be very interested to hear your learnings too – if you can find a couple of minutes then please do let me know.

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