Diversity Training Evaluation: How Do Your Initiatives Measure Up?

There seems to be a myth operating within some communities of practice that suggests the results created by diversity initiatives defy measurement.

It is often presented with a belief that creating a measurable diversity process that drives business is something of a complex and mysterious art form. Organizations are looking for strategies to deal with increased competition, options for reducing cost and increasing productivity to affect the bottom line. And many diversity training evaluations use poorly designed “smile sheets” and focus primarily on attendance records that have very little to do with the business needs and specific performance requirements. This must change.

Accountability is a key issue for diversity training just like any other business unit. But diversity training is only one of several initiatives that are undertaken to achieve an organization’s diversity objectives.

Left without the effective practice of using consistent, time-tested methods of diversity training ROI evaluation practices, diversity organizations can become an easy elimination target for those who do not believe in their value. Consequently, the idea of being able to calculate the diversity return on investment (DROI) of diversity training is mandatory if diversity is to take its place at the strategic partnership table.

The lack of measurement practices for diversity sets it apart from the rest of the organization. Therefore, if we as diversity professionals want to be effective communicators of value added to the bottom line, we must build rapport with our audience using DROI methods.

The business case and rationale for diversity must be linked to strategic business objectives, and initiative results must be displayed and communicated in organizational impact-related terms.

I am convinced that the only way to determine that diversity training and skills development are having the desired effect is to use formal training evaluation processes and cost-benefit analysis methods. The results of these activities can confirm the positive effects of training and development and identify improvements to make it better.

Evaluation can contribute to maximizing the organization’s return on training investment. It also helps us use measurement to make decisions (example: to stop, modify or expand a process’ benefits).

This implies:

• Knowing what decision the evaluation data will help you make.

• Measuring scientifically, using data collection methods and research designs that separate the effects your program is having from all other influences on your outcome variables.

• Choosing the right measures for what your program is really trying to accomplish.

I have found it useful to first distinguish the “evidence-based, outcome-focused” measures from other types of “activity only” measures.

Diversity ROI must be based on evidence and impact results. Anyone responsible for diversity training is also responsible for evaluation. The amount of evaluation that you provide depends on the types of decisions that your organization must make and the information needed to make those decisions.

There are six levels you can use in the Hubbard Diversity Return-on-Investment DROI evaluation methodology to demonstrate impact:

• Level 1: Reaction, Satisfaction and Planned Actions

• Level 2: Learning

• Level 3: Application and Behavioral Transfer

• Level 4: Business Impact

• Level 5: Diversity Return-on-Investment, Benefit-to-Cost Ratio (BCR)

• Level 6: Intangibles

For example, if your only requirement is to ensure that participants have positive attitudes toward the course, then Level 1 evaluation is sufficient. But if your goal is to determine whether your diversity course is having a positive effect on job performance, then you will have to perform a Level 3 evaluation. This means you will also have to conduct a Level 1 and 2 evaluation. They provide the basis for determining whether participants want to use what they have learned and have indeed learned the appropriate attitudes and skills.

Where do you begin? Your first step in evaluating diversity training is to determine your major evaluation questions or objectives based upon a needs assessment or cultural audit conducted at the outset.

The second step is to plan and conduct the appropriate level of diversity training evaluation. Consider the following examples:

• How satisfied are the participants with the course? What are their planned actions (intention to use)?

• Do the participants believe they learned the values and skills that the course was intended to teach?

• Can the participants demonstrate the values, knowledge and skills that are taught in the course?

• Do the participants report that they are using their diversity values, knowledge and skills on the job?

If full use of a diverse workforce and diversity is to be a reality in our lifetime, we must use every tool or resource available to fully monitor and communicate the effectiveness of this effort.

When we start to show management exactly how much value diversity training programs can contribute to the process of building an inclusive work environment, then diversity-training initiatives will become a strategic requirement.

A true commitment to diversity takes effort, time and money — none of which can afford to be wasted in a competitive marketplace.

Our internal standards as professionals must compel us to measure our results without having to be asked. So, how does your diversity training efforts measure up? What are you doing to show that the diversity training you conduct adds “evidence-based” value to the organization and the bottom line in real, measurable terms?

I know that some practitioners are showing their impact. Let me hear about your success.