Q: Hi…We’re in the process of putting the final touches on a two-day communications training program for front-line supervisors through the top level management of our company, a total of about 500 people in all.
Having the luxury of being able to reach so deep into the organization, I want to make sure we leave the participants with easy, simple, accurate ways to measure the effectiveness of their new communication skills. In other words, I want them to have a tangible way of knowing and seeing that their increased efforts in this area are paying off.
While I can do communications audits, surveys, etc., the culture here is such that providing them with tools they can pull out and use at their whim makes a much deeper impression. They like to own things that can make a difference. Any suggestions of how I can provide the attendees of this program with a tangible measurement tool they can regularly use? Thanks for your time…you’re doing very interesting work.
A: Dear Kimberly,
The general types of things managers could measure would be their own activities, the employees’ perceptions of improvement in their managers’ communication behaviors and some operational outcomes that could be expected to improve because of the improved communication. This last one will be difficult for me since I don’t know the type of work your organization does.
One thing you could develop for them are self-scoring evaluation forms that track to what extent they are doing the communication activities they were trained in. For example, they could track the frequency of conducting staff meetings or how timely performance review discussions are.
They could also assess HOW these activities are being conducted. For example, they could use checkmarks to indicate if they used the various skills or tips from the training session in conducting staff meetings. For instance, did they develop an agenda? Did employees provide input on the agenda? Did they stay on time? Did they allow enough time for Q & A? Did they handle conflict well? Did they actively listen? At the end of the score sheet, they can total their check marks and see if they’re doing better over time.
Measuring employee perceptions
Without doing company-wide surveys, supervisors could distribute a 10-question assessment form to their own employees once a quarter on how well employees think their supervisor is exhibiting various communication skills in which they were trained. As long as employee anonymity is maintained (no write-ins or demographics are on the survey, and all are instructed to circle, checkmark or “X” the forms in the same way), the supervisors could collate the results themselves to see if they’re improving over time in their employees’ eyes.
Similarly, you could have a meeting evaluation form that is completed at the end of each staff meeting. Perhaps once a year the surveys would also be analyzed company wide to see how well the training is working. This would work best if the first evaluation is done BEFORE the training is conducted to provide a baseline.
This would be highly specific to the work done by the individual supervisors’ groups. The best approach would be to look at some operational measure that is already being tracked regularly, such as safety for a manufacturing environment, call center accuracy, productivity, turnover, etc. To the extent the supervisor begins communicating differently about topics or situations that relate to the operational measures, they can see if the operational outcomes get better.
For example, it may take a little more time (and lost productivity) to start every shift with a 10-minute briefing on information from the previous shift that could affect the day’s production. Then they could track if errors or waste are going down because of the improved communication, which would more than pay for the lost productivity.
Without a better understanding of your environment and the training itself, I’ll have to leave it at this level of non-specificity. Feel free to call me at 714 241 8665 if you’d like to kick around more specific issues.
Angela D. Sinickas