- This training programme is a major investment and needs to be properly evaluated to ensure it delivers significant benefits
- Detterman (1993) reported that 90% of training was not transferred to the job, for three reasons:
- Training occurs outside the normal context of work and is therefore difficult to transfer. All case studies in this program will be tailored to the specific challenges facing the team.
- “Sheep-dip” training leads to stress, as skills have to be developed intermittently and abruptly. The programme follow up is a critical part of the design.
- The process is almost solely top-down, where senior personnel must identify what needs to be done and how. Engaging team members in the design is a critical part of the process.
Negotiation programmes are notoriously difficult to evaluate. The Harvard Programme on Negotiation (which is probably the best documented negotiation study) suggests that the best way of evaluating a negotiator’s competence is to study their behaviour. Do they follow the process that they have been trained in?
When you try to measure negotiation improvement, it ends up being largely anecdotal. It is impossible to recreate exactly the same negotiation scenario twice and measure the outcome before and after training.
Kirkpatrick’s model of training evaluation is the most widely used – but most organisations don’t get past level 1. (We have paraphrased Kirkpatrick’s descriptions)
Level 1 – Reaction
Evaluation at this level measures how participants react to training. In a long-term programme, it is obviously important that the programme is received and spoken about positively in the organisation.
In reality, it is usually a measure of how well the trainer kept the delegates entertained and engaged. Although a positive reaction does not guarantee learning, a negative reaction almost certainly reduces its possibility.
Level 2 Evaluation – Retention
This measures how much people retain of what they have been taught. We measure this in two ways: the first is that we continually test retention all through the programme and the second is that we observe behaviour afterwards. Where these programmes have been particularly effective with our other clients, they have kept them alive by constant refreshers, materials around the office and inclusion in team member development plans.
Level 3 Evaluation – Behaviour
This level measures whether the learners are changing anything as a result of the training or coaching. We follow all training up with one to one coaching which enables us to assess this. We use a behavioural framework that we have developed which clearly allows us to identify potential improvement areas for negotiators. Although this is not perfect, it certainly gives a broad view of their success.
We shadow the team in their negotiations and evaluate them against the framework, to ensure they are following the process and coach them accordingly. Additionally, we have a database of scoring from a number of other retailers which we could use to benchmark the Sonae negotiators on “no name” basis.
Many organisations don’t bother with this – but a study by Xerox suggests that without coaching – or at least follow up – the behavioural change is likely to be very limited.
Level 4 Evaluation- Return on Investment
Level four evaluation attempts to assess training in terms of business results. Determining results in financial terms is difficult to measure, is hard to link directly with training and remains largely anecdotal.
The reality is that most negotiation consultancies ask participants to quantify details of post training financial successes – but in truth it is virtually impossible to attribute financial success specifically to the training. There is of course value in focusing the buying team on the fact that the company has an expectation that supplier meetings are likely to deliver some commercial benefit!
The most effective organisations we have worked with have a formal “Buy for Less” programme at a category level which focusses on where saving and profit improvement is expected at a supplier level – and we would recommend including this methodology in the training.
In an ideal world, to design any training intervention you would follow a three-stage process:
- Identify current capability
If there has been little or no formal training this stage adds less value – and in the Sonae situation we would recommend skipping this.
- Design and train the development areas
All exercises / role-plays would be designed to allow the delegates to demonstrate specific behaviours. We usually work in small groups (8 per session) with 2 facilitators – one for each group of 4. In this programme we would suggest the sessions are run by one of our facilitators and a Sonae Commercial Director.
- Follow up
In our experience, many organisations also compromise on the third stage, but it is the third stage that delivers real behavioural change. Most companies run “training courses” – so the box is ticked but there is little or no difference to organisational behaviours after the training.
There are a number of ways that training courses can be configured with varying levels of input from the client company – which I have attempted to document below.
In other organisations we have worked with the most successful configuration is that we run all the training interventions which are co-facilitated by a senior member of the client company. (In this case I’m assuming that it would be the Commercial Directors as you suggested).
Looking at the complexity of the organisation chart, there are a number of problems with the Commercial Directors facilitating training courses entirely themselves.
Although they would absolutely be subject matter experts and held in high regard by the organisation and the delegates – in most cases they are not skilled facilitators.
That isn’t to say that they couldn’t be – but the cost in both time and training them is unlikely to pay back – particularly in view of the degree of change occurring in the organisation. It has also been my experience in the past that delegates tend to value more input from external people with different industry views than when training courses are run by their line managers. Obviously if you decide that this is a critical issue, we can put an alternative proposal together specifically to up skill these people. It’s not enough to just explain to them the materials – you really do need to train them to train – and to get consistency of approach this is likely to be time-consuming and expensive.
In terms of the content of the training courses, there are lots of topics that could be covered in a negotiation programme – but in reality, just making sure that people do the basics correctly is likely to give you an exponential return.
An opportunity to negotiate I would usually use five case studies. One would be a “warm-up “team negotiation on the first day to get them used to receiving feedback. The other four would be so each delegate gets a go as the buyer and the supplier. We would film all the role-plays but would not show back the videos during the sessions – the delegates will get them to take away with them for them to review.
Although there is some merit in viewing the videos during the course, this is extremely time consuming and delegates typically have similar improvement areas – so it tends to also be quite repetitive. The key in our view is to deliver high quality, specific, immediate feedback.
With that in mind, I would suggest that we run 10 programmes with eight people, each over two days.
It would be ideal if we could get a Commercial Board Directors involved to spend 10 minutes introducing and contextualising each programme. This puts out a strong message about how important the organisation regards this training.