By Bobbi Nance, Website, LinkedIn & Twitter
Training has been on my mind a lot lately as I have been attending a slew of conferences. In the last three weeks, I will have presented at a national, state, regional, and local training in three different states. Knowing that my take on the #13Percent was coming, I couldn’t help but compare the ELGL’s efforts to move this issue forward to my own efforts to educate and motivate attendees at my conference sessions. Just like I have a curiosity to know if any of my audience takes information back and uses it, I’m curious to know the impact of the#13percent.
A great compliment that I have heard is that I’m a great presenter and on good days, sometimes words like “fantastic” and “entertaining” are mentioned. And while I appreciate those accolades, the one that I’m always hoping to hear instead is that I’m an effective speaker. I will trade 20 post-presentation pats on the back for one follow-up e-mail from an attendee that tells me about a change that they made based my presentation. I crave this, because while pure entertainment has its place, I don’t present at conferences or write a blog to express an opinion or brag about personal successes. I’m passionate about advancing our industry and know that I can make that happen faster if I can inspire some of my peers to action.
How do you know when a training is effective versus entertaining? Could we apply those same tools to the #13percent movement? Thankfully in the training world, a model exists answers this question – Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation. This model identifies areas that any training effort should be evaluated and which, for the most part, build upon the level below it. I’ll explain a little bit about each levels and how they apply to training. Since the data that I have on #13percent’s impact to date is my own personal experiences, I’ll apply those results to the model as well to see how the movement is working so far.
In this particular case, me. I’m a mid-level manager in the middle of my career in middle America. I’m a girl woman (I’ve got to get better about that stuff), so that helps, but I seriously doubt that I will ever be a city manager because my current parks and recreation background and current work with data and innovation are not sending me in that direction. I feel sort of guilty sometimes (even in the park and recreation field) that I’m not “living up to my potential.
Level 1: Reaction
This level judges how the participants felt and their personal reactions to the information presented. This is the most basic level of training evaluation, but unfortunately, tends to either get overlooked or given too much weight in determining the success of a training. The simple fact is that if people have a negative reaction to a training, no matter how important or ground-breaking the content might be, the training effort will fall flat. A big rule of training is that people have to like the training and find the information relevant before they will pay attention to learn (and hopefully) use it. Numerous times I have received feedback such as the “room was hot” or “chairs were uncomfortable.” This kind of feedback shows that people cannot focus on the information presented if they are uncomfortable. Basic needs must be met.
It’s easy, especially when you are speaking to a group of professionals, to play the “they are professionals, they should listen” card, but think back about how quickly you’ve pulled out your cell phone and started ignoring the speaker when in a similar situation. If you want to influence an audience, you must begin with thinking about the reaction that you want and make sure that it’s conducive to the message that you’re communicating.
My #13percent Reaction Evaluation: I’ve been impressed with the breadth of what’s been talked, as well as the wide viewpoints and staying power that ELGL has given the topic. It’s inspiring that it’s continued this long and ELGL has made it both accessible and a comfortable place to share and discuss.
Based my experience, I would give #13percent high marks in this area.
Level 2: Learning
Okay, so my reaction to #13percent has been positive. But just because you have a positive response or had fun at a training, doesn’t mean that you’ve actually learned something.
My #13percent Learning Evaluation: #13percent wins again. I am embarrassed for the 80’s that only 13% of city managers were women, but learning that remains the case is mind boggling. Beyond the statistics that started this movement, I’ve learned so much more. I’ve learned why women aren’t city managers and why many fail to advance to their potential. I’ve learned about the impact of parental leave on keeping women advancing in the workforce and about micro-aggressions which I didn’t realize that I was acting out myself. I gained new perspectives from others, especially those who shared their thoughts on race. Because of the #13percent movement, I am a more knowledgeable individual as well as more conscious of what I observe and my own personal feelings surrounding the issue.
Another point to #13percent.
Level 3: Behavior
Ooh….this is where it gets hard. The point of training, especially in a professional setting, does not stop at learning for the sake of learning. It’s meant to produce a change in behavior. For example, if you are training a group on safety procedures, you hope that they will learn/re-learn new skills and employ better safety practices. I honestly can’t even say that most trainers think this far in advance when deciding what information to present, as most training revolves around some list of standard topics, as opposed to prioritizing those areas where they want to see the most change with their staff.
My #13percent Behavior Evaluation: Has the #13percent movement changed my behavior? It’s unreal to think back to the past year and see some big and small ways it has shifted my thinking and caused me to act. For example:
- I took to heart the discussion on women’s unwillingness to take on risks and/or pursue opportunities that they are not certain that they were ready for. I finally stopped my excuses, set deadlines, worked on my own blog and started to establish myself as a leader with my own little niche in the park and rec world. All of the momentum from that is part of the reason that I’m writing this at an airport on my way to present at another conference.
- I also put my name out there (with some help from some others that believed in my potential) to be part of a national board that is usually reserved for professionals with higher titles that mine and was honored when selected. Was I ready for it? In reality yes, but had I earned did? Did I deserve it? Pre-#13percent me might not have thought so.
- The first two items mentioned should have clued me in that I didn’t have time to work on a third, but I’m excited to be the first president of the new Chicago chapter of Women in Leisure Services.
I’m most proud of the little ways that I have changed my behavior based on the #13percent movement.
- I initiated a summer long self-experiment where I tried to stop using the word “just” so much. I spent the summer repeatedly hitting backspace to erase the word from my writing, it was a conscious change that has started to make me think of other ways that I can change my communication. Karma came back on this and it hit home that this little thing was a big deal while I had the opportunity to watch Gwen Stefani sing “Just a Girl” from the rafters at a music festival in September, a song which takes on more meaning now.
- I could be heard telling co-workers, colleagues, and board members “Oh, have you heard of #13percent?” like it was the next big indie band (although hopefully without coming across as a pretentious hipster in the process). This means that word had been spread, and not just via Twitter.
- One of the moments I’m most proud of though was when I was at an event at a golf course and came across these two bathroom signs. Based on the images, apparently men come to a golf course to golf, but women come to ????
Seriously, look closer. She’s wearing platform shoes. A quick search for “Queen of Clubs Sexy Costume” will tell you why this is. (Note, I don’t believe that the golf course created their sign from the image you’ll see at that link. But someone did, and probably sold it online, which contributed to part of a larger problem when you look for images related to women’s golf versus men’s golf.)
It was a real moment of truth for me. I knew that they were wrong, but was it worth saying something about it? I’d never see them again after that night. I mentioned it to friends at the event, but didn’t get much of a reaction. Their lack of a reaction didn’t convince me I was overreacting, it told me that the world is under-reacting and after #13percent’ing for a year, I can’t un-see something like this. A quick, well-written e-mail to the manager the next morning and the signs were changed right away. Are bathroom signs a big deal? Maybe not. Is the fact that I took the time to correct something that may not be a big deal? I think so.
I guess this means that #13percent is 3 for 3 so far.
Level 4: Results
In terms of training evaluation, we’ve now made it to the big time. Any time you are offering a training, you should have an end result in mind. You spend time developing a training program, one that people enjoy, that they will learn something from, and that hopefully changes some of their behaviors. But why do you want changed behavior? Because, in the end, it should get you something. We assume that if we train staff on safety techniques that it will result in less accidents. Or if we train staff in customer service techniques, it will increase our sales. But does anyone actually follow up and track that in a way that they can say with certainty that the training is producing those results? I’ve done this before, and while difficult, it pales in comparison to the money and time spent on training in the first place and is the responsible thing to do to ensure that your efforts are worth it.
#13percent Results Evaluation: Assuming that #13percent’s only identified and measurable goal is to increase the number of female city managers, and since my results are the only ones that count for this article, I suppose that we didn’t do so well in this area. It might be easy to shrug this off, but just like this is a critical, but often forgotten part of training evaluation, it also needs to be a critical part of the evaluation of the #13percent movement. If we’re not finding a way to track our progress more frequently than every 30 years, momentum may be lost and we may find ourselves tweeting #13percent in 2045 (or whatever social media has evolved to by then).
#13percent’s Final Evaluation
Reflecting on the past year, everyone who has contributed to #13percent should feel proud, at least as far as this woman is concerned. If I have any advice, it’s the following:
- Keep thinking critically about #13percent, and what else can we do to spread the word and motivate those receiving the message to change behaviors and move the needle from “13.”
- Remember when spreading the message, that the receiver’s reaction to your comments affects their ability to learn from you and hopefully eventually change their behavior.
- When you see or hear something that your #13percent-ified gut tells you isn’t right, do something about it. There’s no such thing as “just” a bathroom sign (or whatever little thing you may think is too small to matter).
The crazy thing is that I’ve been feeling kind of guilty about my lack of participation in the #13percent conversation and ELGL in general as I’ve been working on other exciting things. But thanks to a thorough evaluation of its impact, at least in my little corner of the world, I now realize that it’s just because I’ve moved on from talking about the #13percent movement to actually living it. Thanks to everyone that’s helped make that happen!
How would you evaluate #13percent based on your personal experience the past year? Did you get to the learning level or has something about the movement not quite resonated with you resulting in a poor rating in the “Reaction” area? Or, has it actually influenced you to have changes in your behavior? I’d love to know and expand the audience for this evaluation beyond my own experiences.