Yesterday I finished the second day of a two-day training gig (same training each day, different groups) and it left me wondering how you measure success as a trainer. I'm not taking Kirkpatrick's levels of evaluation right now as much as defining it in terms of me as a trainer walking away from something and going "that was great."
Although I faced some resistance from the two groups I worked with, overall they were very engaged and enthusiastic, asking lots of questions, making good connections, etc. They worked on case studies and everyone contributed (not always the case). Based on their participation in our discussions, I could tell that they were getting the concepts. And at the end, I received the highest praise I could get from a woman who stood up and told the class that she'd been "dreading" the training, thinking it would be "useless" and "boring," but that she was really glad she'd attended because she got a lot of good ideas. Someone else said, "I didn't fall asleep ONCE!" (High praise indeed, for a trainer!)
By a lot of measures, the last two days were successful, but I'm still left with this niggling doubt that always plagues me as an outside consultant coming into an organization. I keep thinking "So what?" Is anything really going to change from the day I spent with these people? Or is it just one of those things where they were more entertained than they'd anticipated?
I've tried to set my sights small, thinking that if they change one thing, that's good. I've had a lot of people I've trained approach me in other venues to tell me about the "one thing" they've changed thanks to attending one of my sessions and it's always gratifying to hear that. It's a little unsatisfying, too, because so often I've given them 50 things they could do differently and I'll walk away thinking, "You only did ONE thing of those 50 we talked about?" Then again, if I've only spent a day or even half a day with them, is changing one thing the best I could hope for?
This is why I'm no fan of "one-hit wonder" training sessions, although I find myself doing them more often than I'd like. Training shouldn't be an event, but a process. It's also frustrating to find myself in situations where I'm teaching people how to work around their existing policies and procedures in order to actually do a good job. This happens more often than I'd care to say, especially since so often "management" doesn't attend the trainings or even get terribly involved in planning them. All of this is a reminder of why training often isn't the answer to the problem.
But I digress. Mostly this is me wondering about my own professional practice and how to define success in that realm. Is it enough for people to be engaged in the day I've spent with them and for them to walk away having learned something different that makes them change how they do their work in one small way? Maybe. Maybe it IS those small nuggets that end up making a bigger difference than I know. Still, there's this lingering feeling of doubt that makes me impatient for more. . .