Leadership perceptions of results and return on investment training evaluations
Preston, Kevin F.
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This study sought to validate whether the literature on high level training evaluation (level four results and level five return on investment) accurately reflected the expectations of organizational leaders regarding training evaluation reports. The researcher was interested in what high level training evaluation was being conducted at organizations and whether leaders believed the claims found in the high level training evaluation reports they were receiving. This qualitative study used a multi-site case study method to examine the training evaluation practices of the U.S.'s ten largest Catholic healthcare organizations. The case study began with a survey sent to the lead HRD professional in each of the target organizations to understand training evaluation practices. Follow-up interviews with HRD professionals were held with six of the eight organizations that responded to the survey and who also measured level four (result) or level five (return on investment) training evaluations. An in-depth analysis of the training practices at four of those organizations, including interviews with nine senior leaders, provided the remaining data regarding training evaluation practices and leadership perceptions of high level training evaluations. Findings of the study indicated that while leaders did not always request high level training evaluation data, they found that data to be very valuable when given to them. Leaders wanted to see reports that indicated training program success including metrics that were important to the organization as a whole, not just to HRD professionals. Reports that included both quantitative and qualitative metrics woven into compelling stories were perceived to be most beneficial. These metrics needed to reflect organizational goals, not training department goals. Data obtained from sources seen by the organization as a whole as credible made the reports more believable. Claims of training impact provided directly by training participants were also common and were seen as credible as long as those learners were required to report their application of learning back to their own leadership teams for authentication. Findings from this study were consistent with related literature on the topic. This study provided further evidence that leaders were expecting certain high level training evaluation data to be provided in order to demonstrate training value.