Few things in the L&D profession attract as much disdain as the Level 1 evaluation survey.
Known colloquially as the “happy sheet”, the humble questionnaire is typically considered too onerous, too long, too shallow, and it gives whiners a platform to complain about the sandwiches or the air conditioning.
And yet a long time ago, someone told me something that has stuck with me ever since: you don’t want to not do it.
Why? Well first of all, it’s easy. Given the availability of online forms these days, rustling one up is like falling of a log, and the back-end compilation of the results is rather impressive.
And the survey shouldn’t be too long; that’s the fault of its design, not of the concept. In fact, I advocate only two questions…
- The net promoter: How likely are you to recommend this learning experience to a colleague?
- The open-ended: How might we improve this learning experience?
The net promoter score (NPS) has itself been criticised, but I like it because it’s a simple number that’s easy to track and report. By no means an in-depth analysis, it’s a summary indicator to keep an eye on. The standard to which it adheres is quite high – a promoter is a 9 or a 10 – and a negative score is a sure-fire sign you’re not hitting the mark.
The open-ended question shores up the NPS by enabling the respondent to explain their rating. If there’s a problem, this is where it will appear.
Indeed, the sandwiches and the air conditioning are favourite punching bags, but we L&D pro’s do bang on a lot about the learning environment. You don’t get much more environmental than shelter and sustenance, so why not turn the dial and mix up the menu?
I also advocate the following…
- Resist asking the participants to hand their feedback to you in person; or worse, share it aloud. This will probably result in platitudes which – unless that’s what you’re really after – are effectively useless.
- Allow the participants to submit their feedback anonymously. Again, you want them to be honest. If they still lie, your organisational culture has way bigger issues to address!
- Allow the provision of feedback to be voluntary. You need actionable insights, so invite only the feedback that someone feels strongly enough is worthwhile actioning.
- Invite feedback less frequently over time. We all suffer from survey fatigue, so after you’ve got a good gauge of what’s going on, keep your finger on the pulse with the occasional spot check.
If we look at Level 1 evaluation through this lens, we consider the feedback form less a “happy sheet” and more an “unhappy sheet”. It exposes hidden ailments that you can subsequently remedy.
It’s not the be-all-and-end-all of evaluation, nor is it meant to be. Rather, it’s the canary in the coal mine that alerts you to a risk before it gets any worse.