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Why HR Leaders Should Invest in Program Evaluation

Published about 1 year ago • 5 min read

As we approach the second half of the year, many HR teams are likely already in the early stages of planning and budgeting for 2024. However, with so much focus on “what’s next,” leaders may be forgetting to take a step back and ensure that the programs they’ve invested in for 2023 are achieving their intended outcomes.

HR professionals are tasked with being highly strategic when it comes to implementing new initiatives for their organization. But even the most well-designed programs and policies are subject to factors that companies can’t control. Employee preferences are constantly evolving, external forces often come into play, and the demographic characteristics of your workforce can drastically shift in a short period of time.

HR leaders know they need to be more agile — new research from isolved reveals that 1 out of 3 say their team could improve on responding quicker to the changing needs of their business and employees. Regularly aligning your initiatives with your company’s priorities can help, as can seeking out employee feedback. But it’s also critical that you evaluate your programs, even though there’s often a reluctance to do this.

It’s not that HR leaders aren’t gathering any data. Isolved’s report shows that 41% will invest in technologies that support employee surveys this year and 40% will invest in HR analytics tools. But while leaders clearly recognize the importance of gathering workforce insights, many aren’t putting the same effort into evaluating their programs. Reasons for this include concerns about finding negative outcomes, confusion about how to collect data, or a lack of resources or support for conducting an evaluation.

Insufficient or poorly-executed program evaluation could be one of the reasons why a growing number of employees are dissatisfied with their company’s programs and offerings. In fact, employees' satisfaction with their benefits fell to 61% in 2023, down from 64% in 2022 and reaching its lowest point in the past decade, according to data from March.

These statistics are concerning, but the good news is that there’s no better time than the present to determine whether your programs are achieving their intended outcomes. The mid-year mark is actually an ideal time for program evaluation — you’ll have several months of data to review, and plenty of time to make adjustments for the remainder of the year and plan for next year.

In today’s article, I’ll describe the benefits of program evaluation and the 6 steps HR leaders can take to effectively evaluate their programs. I’ll also bring this to life with example goals and metrics you might use to evaluate your company’s learning & development program. Let’s take a look.

The Benefits of Program Evaluation

HR program evaluation can provide numerous benefits for organizations, including:

Improved Performance: The evaluation process helps organizations identify areas where programs are performing well and areas that need improvement. By pinpointing these areas, organizations can make changes to their HR programs to enhance their effectiveness and achieve better outcomes.

Better Alignment: By gathering data, leaders can make more informed decisions about their HR programs and ensure that they’re aligned with the organization's goals and objectives. HR can become a much more strategic partner within the organization through this process.

Enhanced Accountability: Evaluation allows organizations to establish clear performance metrics, which helps to ensure that programs are achieving the desired outcomes. This also enables clear communication with stakeholders about the purpose and effectiveness of HR programs.

Improved Planning. Evaluation helps HR teams plan for future initiatives by providing data about the effectiveness of current programs. In addition, being able to show concrete proof of program ROI makes it easier for HR to get the resources they need.

The 6 Steps of Effective Program Evaluation

Below are the 6 steps HR professionals can take to evaluate their programs. Note that while some organizations may have the resources and team members in place to support this process, it helps to leverage an expert partner — especially when it comes to gathering and interpreting data. For example, isolved offers HR Services which can do a full audit of programs.

  1. Set clear goals: Before implementing any program, it's important to set clear and specific goals. These goals should be measurable and achievable, and should align with the overall strategic objectives of the organization.
  2. Define metrics: Once the goals are set, HR should define specific metrics to measure the success of the program. There are a wide variety of metrics and indicators you might look at, including employee satisfaction and engagement, productivity, retention and turnover rates, absenteeism, cost per hire, and internal mobility rates.
  3. Collect data: HR should collect data on the program's effectiveness, both during and after implementation. It's important to collect both qualitative and quantitative data to gain a complete understanding of the program's impact. This data can be gathered through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or other methods.
  4. Analyze data: After collecting the data, HR should analyze it to determine whether the program is meeting its goals and metrics. This analysis should be both objective and thorough, taking into account any factors that may affect the results.
  5. Make adjustments: Based on the data analysis, HR should make adjustments to the program as needed. This may involve changing program elements, improving communication, or providing additional training.
  6. Communicate results: Finally, HR should communicate the results of the program evaluation to stakeholders, including employees, management, and other relevant parties. This communication should be clear and transparent, highlighting the successes and areas for improvement of the program.

Example: Learning & Development

Below are two common goals organizations may have for their learning & development programs, along with example metrics and data-gathering methods that could be used to evaluate whether any new L&D initiative is achieving its intended outcomes.

Note that all of these metrics should be gathered at several intervals: (1) Before any new initiative is put into place, (2) At one or more midpoints later on, once the program is underway, and (3) After the program has concluded (if it has a finite start and end). These “pre” and “post” measurements are critical, because they allow you to identify changes in the key metrics you’re trying to impact.

Example Goal 1: Close the skills gap

  • Example metrics: Number of skills self-reported by employees and their evaluation of their competency with these skills. Managers’ assessments of employee skillsets. Employees’ scores on skills assessments. Internal mobility rates.
  • Data-gathering methods: Employee and manager surveys, skills assessments, number of vacant roles applied for and accepted by an internal candidate vs. an external candidate.

Example Goal 2: Improve the company’s culture of learning

  • Example metrics: Employees’ perceptions regarding their ability to spend time on L&D activities, their willingness to do so, and their belief that their company supports this and will reward them for their efforts. Managers’ willingness and ability to encourage L&D activities among their team members. Actual time spent on L&D activities.
  • Data-gathering methods: Employees and manager surveys, focus groups, uptake of company-provided L&D programs, external assessment by a workplace partner.

From operational to strategic

At most organizations, HR leaders already have a seat at the table. However, program evaluation can allow these key team members to take on a much more strategic role within their organization. While evaluation takes time, planning, and resources, it allows companies to optimize their HR programs and achieve better outcomes for both the organization and its employees.

Thanks for reading — be sure to join the conversation on LinkedIn and let me know your thoughts on this topic!

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