It is tempting to measure retrospectively – but try to stay away from it.
You may have just held a course or completed a successful leadership training program. Or you are finding that your talent management program is being well received. Now you want to show that it added value to the business by measuring retrospectively. Don’t.
I can think of 3 reasons why you should always start your measurement before the program:
1. True evaluation requires a before measurement. Paul Kearns (http://www.paulkearns.co.uk) highlights that pre-training evaluation work – establishing how the activity is going to add value to the organisation and obtain performance measures for each trainee before the training starts – is the most important in any evalution process. I couldn’t agree more.
2. It is too easy to ‘adjust reality’ when doing it retrospectively. To reconstruct an original intend is always difficult – when you are trying to evaluate it is even harder. You must be able accurately to reconstruct the true context, behaviour and results from the time before the activity in order to assess the progress. You may have data going back in time but it is more difficult to reconstruct the original intend. (see this White Paper from Kirkpatric Partners: here)
3. Measuring is also about assessing if the activity should be done or not. Measuring is not an end in itself – it is a mean to create better HR activities. An important benefit of doing all the hard work before the program is to make adjustments so the outcome is strategically focused and create the most shareholder value. If you only do post-activity-measures then you don’t get all those benefits.
In short, measuring and evaluating is great but do it right – true evaluation starts before the activity is launched.