Canada’s Software Human Resource Council (SHRC) is aiming to help Canadian businesses evaluate training investments with a software tool that helps set performance objectives and measure training effectiveness.

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Evaluation and Learning Support (OPELS) software is the result of a two-year research and development project funded by Human Resource Development Canada and the Office of Learning Technologies. David Sable, the software’s Halifax-based designer, explained that it grew out of work for a multinational corporation. The goal was to develop software to evaluate the impact of e-learning, Sable explained. When the project was shelved after a merger, “we took it home and we said look, we could use this for small and medium-sized businesses.”

The idea of OPELS is to have both learners and managers identify the results they are seeking from a training program and then measure what the training delivers against those goals.

Learners “actually set up a little action plan that shows what they’re going to do differently” as a result of the training, Sable explained. Their managers set up similar plans indicating what they are expecting the training to do for the business.

For instance, an employee might expect that learning about particular software will help her write better proposals, and management might expect that by leading to better proposals, the training would ultimately attract more business or investment.

According to Sable, spelling out objectives this way helps ensure that goals are clear and those of the employee and the business are aligned. “Right from the start it helps prevent misunderstandings,” he said.

One might do much the same thing without special software, he admitted, but OPELS helps ensure that everyone involved follows through by periodically prompting the person who takes the training to complete questionnaires indicating how well the training is working, whether goals are being met, and what problems exist.

For instance, he said, a trainee might indicate that the training was helpful but he is realizing no benefits because he doesn’t have the latest copy of the software. “Sometimes simple things like that fall through the cracks because the learners think nobody cares,” Sable said.

Amy Lynn Bell, an administrator at Digital Image FX Inc. in Dartmouth, N.S., said she used OPELS to track her own training on accounting software and found its reminders helped her focus on the goals of the training. “It was helpful in just making it more in-your-face as to what you’re doing,” she said. “It just makes you more conscious of it.”

Bell said the software’s reminders made her follow through on tracking the results of her training. “I would not have probably done that unless I was put into a system that tracked whether I had done it or not.”

John McKinnon, vice-president of operations at Sydney, N.S.-based AG Research, said the 30-employee software developer has used OPELS to assess the benefits of various training courses for its employees. OPELS helped AG Research understand whether its training investments produced enough benefit to pay for themselves, he said. “It helps us understand the exercise of training and what are better methods or modes of training for our organization.” 

While using OPELS takes some time, McKinnon said, the benefits justify the time invested.

The SHRC – a non-profit sector council that represents software professionals – is offering OPELS to its members as part of a Human Resources Toolkit that the Ottawa-based council is developing. For a limited time, the SHRC is offering a one-year license to use OPELS and an SHRC membership for $995.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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