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by Rich Wootten

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This Blog is shared by Jane Massy of ABDI

Do you know whether they actually learned anything from your training investment?

In the most recent of our quarterly sessions to support the team’s continuing professional development, we reviewed and discussed the quality of Level 2 assessment that we see when working on evaluations and reviewing submissions. Level 2 is the measurement of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Where an investment intends to improve knowledge, build skills or help to change attitudes in order to influence behaviours, or whether these are formal education and training programmes or the provision of information and/or quick checks on whether someone can do what they are expected to do, they must be accurate, fair and objectively measureable. The assessment needs to provide assurance that before someone starts implementing a task, adhering to a new policy, changing their behaviour in accordance with a new expected standard, they know what to do and how to do it to the expected standard and under conditions they will experience when they are using these knowledge or skills in their work. Obvious really – but in practice very frequently poorly evaluated. The first mistake is to assess something that is neither essential nor relevant to the change in performance or behaviour that the investment aims to deliver. We looked as many examples of assessment tools the team (our associates and staff) had shared for the CPD session.

For example one was a multiple choice questionnaire that apart from its very dubious right/wrong answers to questions was in fact assessing information the participants on a training programme had been told during the course. But these participants were on the course to improve their customer service skills and there was no assessment of these skills and behaviours! We then looked at an example of the observation of participants undertaking a simulated training session where the observer was asked to provide comments. No descriptors to provide objective indicators of what the observer was supposed to look for and no scoring requirement, just a subjective narrative. We also looked at a much higher quality tool which had clear unambiguous descriptors and a simple scoring requirement. Finally, we compared participants self-rated scores on competence and confidence and compared the results to the results collected from an observation tool where there were very well developed descriptors, rating scales and standardisation of results had taken place. Curiously, the participants had all rated their skills at the end of the programme at a very high level with the exception of fewer than 10% who were rather more modest in their self-rating. The observation results (where there was consistency of results across all trainers/observers and participants) showed a very different picture with over 30% scoring below acceptable ratings, 10% achieving the acceptable standard and the balance rated as showing progress towards acceptable. Self-rating is perhaps not that reliable?

What is the worst offence: training programmes for purposes of regulatory compliance that either only record whether someone did the course or at least sat through a face to face or online programme. Regulators who are prepared to accept ‘presence’ as valid information about whether someone knows what they are supposed to do and can demonstrate behaviours in accordance with the standard have only themselves to blame when non-compliance leads to the kinds of serious failures in behaviour and performance we have seen frequently in sectors as diverse as banking and healthcare.

We are exploring delivering one-day programmes on Learning Assessments, so that participants really understand what indicators to look for when assessing learning and how and where to start. Please e-mail us at
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to express your interest in this future offering.

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by Rich Wootten

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I read this article today about East Cheshire NHS Trust outsourcing its Payroll, HR and L&D functions of the business.

Notwithstanding the people element of this move, I’m only considering the business aspect.

Outsourcing certain, non-critical parts of the business makes good business and financial sense, particularly in this tight market. Selecting an outsourcing partner who is an expert in a particular area and can address your business needs is important.

However, I stress non-critical parts of a business, when has Learning and Development been a non-critical part of the business? Or anything people focused? L&D isn’t a purely administrative function that just buys training, its integral to the business and future development of the people in the business.

Whilst I’m sure that East Cheshire NHS Trust thought long and hard about this decision, I’m not critical of them in particular I just mention them as an example due to the fact that I happen to read that particular article today.

What we really don’t want to see is L&D being led purely by financial drivers. There is a place in the industry for L&D providers to deliver training and learning to organisations that need it, also for specialist learning provision. 

Is complete outsourcing the right model for all businesses to follow?

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This Blog is shared by Jane Massy of ABDI


We have recently been evaluating a train the trainer programme which takes place over a several days and includes a variety of sessions including knowledge and skill development activities. All sessions were delivered by a single facilitator and four facilitators each worked with a group of approximately 35 participants with a total of just over 130 participants.

Data were collected on engagement/reaction and learning during and at the end of the programme.

Participants were first asked to rank the workshop sessions in terms of their usefulness to developing their skills. Rankings from participants showed a preference for workshops that placed little demand on the participants which it appears influenced their choice of ‘usefulness’. The workshops that placed most demand on them for either preparation or pressure to complete set work to an agreed standard were ranked as least useful. One particular workshop which enables summative evaluation of some critical skills through observation of a role play activity and which placed a high level of work on the participants to demonstrate their application of skills was ranked as the most useful by only 6% of the participants.

When asked to self-rate the different skills which were the focus of their development by the end of the programme, fewer than 10% said they did not feel competent AND confident to use all these skills at work. Four of these skill areas were among those assessed through observation on the most demanding workshop.

For the most demanding workshop, the facilitator used an observation tool to assess the standard of performance on each task. We developed this tool with the client with detailed descriptors at four levels (below acceptable, occasional/progressing towards standard, acceptable standard and exceptional performance) for each of the tasks the participants were required to undertake at the workshop. The descriptors were written to be as objectively observable as possible so as to avoid any subjective judgement by the facilitator. The results were within 2% of the range for all groups so we are confident that no bias was introduced by the facilitators.

Interestingly, no participant was rated exceptional, fewer than 10% achieved acceptable standard scores, about 30% were below acceptable and the balance occasional/progressing towards standard. Yet the participants self-rated their competence and competence in these skill areas at the highest level.


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by Rich Wootten

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This Blog is Shared by Nick Halder Learning and Development Manager, Fiddessa

By the Business for the Business Coaching – Sorted? Or Passé?

I did a presentation a while ago at an event, it was all about “using the resources you have” in terms of harnessing the expertise of your staff to do peer to peer training. The reason I mention this is, at the end the moderator for the event highlighted the fact that talking about Coaching Programmes was unusual in 2013 as the discussion have moved on and there is an assumption that all businesses have coaching sorted. I was a little non-plussed by this at the time as it made me question whether I and my company are “behind the times”. However looking back now, I started to think that maybe the real meaning of the comment was that the latest L&D trends have moved on and coaching is just a little “last year” for these forums.

So does this mean that coaching is “sorted” now in organisations? Or does it mean coaching is no longer considered relevant? Or does it really mean that we should be taking another look at coaching to see where it really stands in our organisation?

At Fidessa, my company, we decided to take a look at coaching – seriously – about three years ago. Our driver was trying to ensure our employees and new hires had the necessary latest skills and knowledge to drive business success. As a software provider to the financial services this is no small requirement – with technology changing continually and the financial markets in a constant state of flux. We looked to coaching within the business because trying to disseminate all this change through traditional classroom training was just too slow! Plus the expertise in these areas already exists within many of our employees so why “reinvent the wheel” when we could utilise these existing subject matter experts (SMEs)?

For us the logic in building a by the business for the business coaching capability was simple and to borrow a much (over)used theory, aligned with the 70:20:10 theory. Rather than getting drawn into a discussion on this theory (maybe a future blog), I will simply state that for us the goal of coaching was to enable greater business self-sufficiency to develop employees effectively, quickly, on the job and to a consistently high standard. This meant the L&D Project was all about engaging with the business (division by division) and developing the coaching capabilities and frameworks for each division to take forward.

So what lessons have we learnt that I can share with you? Firstly, be very clear what your ultimate aspirational goal is, but also know what your “first step” goal is and focus on this wholly! For us this was to embed technical coaching in our various divisions. Secondly, seek out the enthusiasts (managers and employees) and make them your first division. To embed coaching in the business you need active management support not least because the management team in a division will own and drive the coaching framework once implemented, so they have to be passionate advocates from the outset!

Then once you have successfully embedded this first programme, shamelessly use the successes to sell the concept into other divisions! Our first programme achieved 33% reduction in “time to productivity” for new graduate consultants (stats from the division itself). As a tangible business benefit it doesn’t get much better and this has made it much easier to “sell” coaching to other divisions. And then don’t stop!! Keep pushing it!

How does all this relate to my blog title? Well, in my opinion, coaching is neither sorted nor passé in organisations! If we have learnt one crucial thing, it is that to make coaching a valuable tool for your organisation, you have make it a programme not a project. By this I mean, it never ends – L&D has to keep selling, marketing and supporting the organisation perpetually – or it will become just another fad! And coaching certainly isn’t passé! To me it is the bedrock of informal learning in an organisation, because ingrained coaching skills seed a culture of knowledge sharing and the more people who develop the capability the more effective informal learning and knowledge sharing will become – or to quote Gary Player (golfer), “the more I practice the luckier I get”!

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