This post focuses on best practices for evaluating environmental, health, and safety (EHS) training. That means a couple things: evaluating how well your employees learned from their EHS training and, of course, evaluating the EHS training itself. Plus, it means using that evaluation information during continuous improvement efforts.
This article, like others in the series, is based on some of the guidelines in ANSI Z490.1, the standard that lists "Criteria for Accepted Practices in Safety, Health, and Environmental Training. In particular, this article is based on Section 6 of the standard.
If you want to download our free 42-page Guide to Effective EHS Training, click that link you just whizzed past or scroll down to the bottom of this article and click the download button.
Otherwise, let's get learning about evaluating EHS training.
As you probably guessed, the purpose of evaluating EHS training is to see if it the training was effective. Are your employees learning from the training? Does the training lead to the desired change in their behaviors on the job? Have your EHS metrics improved? Does one or more individual employee need additional help after the training? Do you need to modify the EHS training?
We'll look at three aspects of this below:
The standard provides some general criteria for evaluating EHS training, including the following.
Before you deliver the training to employees, you've got to design it and develop it. We explained this earlier in our article How to Develop Effective EHS Training.
Even that early, you should be thinking about your post-training evaluation of the learners and evaluation of the training materials themselves. Outcomes that can be evaluated include (but are not limited to):
After the training is over, one thing to evaluate is whether or not each employee in the training successfully satisfies each learning objective of the training.
You're going to need to correctly identify every employee who's being tested. Be sure to create a mechanism for this so you'll know who's who and can confirm each employee is who he/she says he/she is and of correctly matching the employee taking the test with his or her grades/scores/test answers.
During EHS training design and development, give thought to the possibility of allowing employees to take some form of pre-test and "test out" of the training if they demonstrate that they already have the desired knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes the training is intended to teach.
Typically, if you DO allow for the possibility of testing out, the employee would test out by successfully completing the assessment that's provided to employees after the training.
Be sure to check regulatory guidelines to make sure testing-out is acceptable.
During the design and development phase, you'll also have to determine the standard an employee must meet in order to complete the post-training evaluation successfully.
The standard for successful completion that you choose will vary on a number of things, including the type of training evaluation you use. However, some possibilities may include:
Also remember that the evaluation must comply with all industry standards and regulations. For example, regulations often specify a minimum acceptable level of training (although it's always OK to exceed those requirements).
When you create an assessment to evaluate if the employees can meet the learning objectives, it's important to know the evaluation must be both reliable and valid. But what does that mean? Here's what the standard says:
Click to read more about reliability and validity in testing.
Another thing to think of in advance is to create a manner in each employee who took the training will be provided with the results of the evaluation (whether it is the scored test or the observed skill demonstration).
Trainees can use this as part of the feedback to help guide them as they look for additional information or practice and also to help them create a plan for future training.
The EHS training program should include some form of periodic re-evaluation of the trainee's ability to satisfy the learning objectives. This helps to evaluate the training as a whole as well as the need for retraining or refresher training.
Now that we've covered some general criteria for environmental, health, and safety training evaluation, let's look more closely at some approaches or methods for evaluating training.
Section 6 of the standard suggests a method that's based on what is commonly known as Kirkpatrick's Four Levels of Evaluation.
In this method, training is evaluated at as many as four different levels to determine if it's effective. Those four levels are:
Next, let's turn our attention to the type of evaluation to use. The evaluation should include one, and may include all, of the following approaches:
After the training is complete, have the employees give their opinion of the training. This can be delivered as a survey. Be sure to include space for written comments, too.
Survey questions can cover topics such as the trainer's presentation skills, the suitability of the training environment, the pace and difficulty of the training, and the usefulness of the training material.
These surveys can help the trainees assess their own level of learning. In addition, they can be used by trainers and training providers to assess and improve the training materials and training delivery.
A good source of information about creating useful level-1 survey sheets, often called "smile sheets," is the book Performance-Focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Rethinking of a Dangerous Art Form by Dr. Will Thalheimer. You can see our article on Thalheimer's "Smile Sheets" book here.
This is an assessment or test, during or immediately after training, to determine if the employees can satisfy the learning objectives.
This assessment may take several different forms, including:
You may find these articles helpful while planning your own post-training assessment:
Because training is intended to change how people perform on the job, it's important to observe the workers in the field after the training to see if they can demonstrate the skills/abilities/knowledge/attitude from the training while actually working.
You might want to consider doing this both before and after training to get a better sense of any improvement the training may have caused.
On-the-job observation can come from direct observation, but also from information collected by supervisors, coworkers, or customers, or evem from indirect measures in product records or safety reports.
If observation detects a gap between the actual performance and the desired performance, try to find the cause for that gap. In some cases, this can be tracked back to problems with the EHS training and/or training delivery, but in other cases, other factors that are un-related to training may exist. This article on identifying and closing skill gaps explains this in more detail and provides a method for investigating this issue.
Finally, you may try to evaluate the effect that the training had on goals of the organization or business.
This can include tracking things like:
You may have noticed that to do this, you'll have to select particular key performance indicators (KPIs) of the business that you'll track over time. The following articles provide more information on this topic:
As we mentioned earlier, the evaluation phase of EHS training has two primary purposes:
That second bullet, above, is what "continuous improvement" is all about.
Use all information from your training evaluation to improve court content, delivery methods, materials, and learning environment.
EHS training developers and trainers should also use the results of the learner evaluations and all other training evaluations to periodically review the effectiveness of the training materials and training presentation themselves. Evaluation should include course content, training delivery methods, additional training materials, trainer performance, learning environment, and more.
Remember to also use information from incident investigations, job-site observations, safety audits, and inspection data to make improvements to the training as well.
No doubt you recognized the importance of evaluation the effectiveness of your EHS training and the learning of your employees even before you read this article. With luck, this article has given you some best practices you can use to evaluation your EHS training more effectively.
Of course, we encourage you to go get the ANSI Z490.1 standard as well.