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Want to improve your organization’s training? Some people may be suspicious of your intent.


Readers of the Train Like a Champion blog will not be surprised that I am smitten with Will Thalheimer’s new book, Performance-focused Smile Sheets: A Radical Re-thinking of a Dangerous Art Form.

You can read a review of why every training professional should read this book here, and you can see several examples of how I integrated concepts from the book by having my own post-training evaluation forms undergo an extreme makeover here.

It just makes sense. Better post-evaluation questions lead to better analysis of the value of a training program, right? So it was with some surprise that I was pulled aside recently and asked to explain myself for all the changes I’d made to our evaluation forms.

“The new evaluation forms seem… heavy. When I open it up, there are a ton of words. I’m overwhelmed.”

I looked at my boss’s computer monitor. She was absolutely right. Exchanging the traditional Likert-style 1-5 rating questions for a series of descriptive choices created a very text-heavy evaluation form.

I had committed the same Cardinal sin with my evaluation forms that I’ve railed against for years when it comes to training. I had made these evaluation forms about me and the post-training data I wanted to get. I had lost sight of the people who would actually need to complete the evaluation forms.

I explained the intent behind the revisions. I suggested that asking about the sorts of support our employees feel they’ll get from their supervisors following a training would be more valuable than simply getting an average score of 4.2 on an evaluation form. I pointed out that the data we can collect from a group of employees when we’ve asked each of them to invest 10 minutes of time on this sort of evaluation form can give us a lot better idea of whether the investment we’ve made into a training program has been worthwhile.

“Ok, I’ll buy that,” my boss said to me. “Let’s try it out. But maybe we should explain to our staff why these evaluation forms will look a little different. Maybe we should warn them that, while there may be a lot more words on these forms, they shouldn’t be intimidated. A little heads up can probably help us out here.”

It was an important reminder for me: there are still a lot of times when an idea makes a lot of sense to me. I’m familiar with the theory and the research behind the idea, although the people who will be most impacted by my newfangled, crazy ideas aren’t as familiar with why I’m asking them to change.

Sometimes a little warning, a little heads up, a little explanation, will be much more effective than surprising (blind-siding?) people with a change in the routine.

Have you tried changing things up in your training programs? What are some tips you might share to help others implement changes that will be more readily received by the audience?

Want more insights, tips, tricks, research and articles about learning and development? Follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn!

Digital interaction not enough? Want to grab a cup of coffee and chat?

If you’re in the Seattle-area, drop me a line any time (brian @

I’ll be leading several sessions in the DC-area May 1-3.

I’ll be in Austin, TX, for a conference June 6-10.

Or join Mike Taylor and me at our presentation at the Online Learning Conference in Chicago, September 20-22.

Want to get more people at your organization training like a champion? Drop me a line and I’d be happy to work with you (brian @!

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