3 reasons why not to measure retrospectively

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.

3 thoughts on “3 reasons why not to measure retrospectively

  1. Hi Morten,

    Could not agree more! I have found that most of the small business that I advise do not really understand the whole value proposition – added value concepts. When offering their services to one of their new clients I tell them they must ask probing questions and gather information regarding each client’s current situation, (what the costs and service levels are etc) Before the proposal. This information then forms the benchmark against which the Added Value of the new proposed service may be measured. and estimated. How else are you able to calculate ROI etc.

    Keep in touch!

    Kind Regards

    Roger Cashmore

  2. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for your comment.
    I agree. A client must gather the information before the proposal – otherwise it is impossible to evaluate improvements and value-added. Good point.


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