Overcoming Resistance to Results Assessment - Training and Development

Unfortunately,results assessment is not a routine component of most HRD practice. Organization development and personnel training and development programs are often carried out with little or no formal plans for assessment or no thoughts regarding follow-up procedures designed to identify measurable outcomes. Because conducting such assessments is not standard within HRD practice, most organizations do not have the expertise, culture, or systems in place to make it easy to implement.

What has developed in this type of organization is typical of those that have not focused on results and results assessment. Over the years, HRD activities become increasingly isolated from the systems they are designed to support.

And HRD professionals and line managers become less and less closely associated. Eventually,programs take on a life of their own that is separate from the goals and work processes employed to achieve them. A culture of mediocrity, at least as far as learning and performance, takes over. However, results assessment rarely succeeds in assessing performance outcomes, let alone learning, when assessment is only an occasional event. The most effective strategy is to create a culture in which results assessments become routine and expected. Here are four key strategies for overcoming resistance to change:

Overcoming Resistance Strategy #1: Implement only what the culture will allow.
The first hard lesson that results assessment professionals must learn is that many people do not welcome results assessment in organizations.

Most likely, one of these typical reactions from implementing results assessment would occur:

  • Fear that the results will not be good
  • Anxiety about how the data will be used
  • Uncertainty about why results assessment is needed
  • Doubt about the validity of assessing results from learning
  • Discomfort that the program must lead to organizational and individual performance
  • Anger because someone is "checking up" on outcomes
  • Wishing that self-directed development were sufficient

Ironically,individuals and companies that have the most to gain from results assessment also have the most to lose if the results are not good. Thus, the resistance may actually be greater in organizations that have the most to gain. Thus,introducing results assessment into an organization has to be seen as both a measurement task with associated technical issues, and a culture change process.

Overcoming Resistance Strategy #2: Compromise on measurement issues in the early stages to gain acceptance.
Insisting on rigorous measurement too soon after introducing results assessment is common mistake. Conducting more lenient measurement initially and increasing the rigor as the culture adjusts is a preferable approach. By doing so, there is a greater likelihood for acceptance. Although the measurement from early efforts will be less accurate, they will also be less threatening.

Overtime, participants often begin to demand more accurate data, which is exactly what you want them to do. The key is to do what the culture will allow, and perhaps a little more, and then add to it as acceptance is gained. After a few results assessments have taken place, people usually will see their value and realize that they are not something to be feared.

Overcoming Resistance Strategy #3: Sell Results Assessment. Do not expect everyone to welcome you with open arms when you propose results assessment! Even senior management may need to be sold on the idea of assessing results from HRD activities. Line managers may see it as just another demand on their time, and they may need to be convinced that it will help them in someway. Participants may be afraid that upper management is just checking up on them and may not realize that they will benefit as well.

In short, you must be prepared to sell the process to senior management, line management, and participants. Here are some key benefits that each group is likely to receive from implementing a program of results assessments; they can be used as selling points.


  • Increased productivity as a result of HRD
  • Better use of dollars invested in HRD
  • More satisfied line management


  • More immediate payoffs from HRD activities
  • Increased productivity
  • Greater involvement in HRD goals and planning
  • Less time wasted on low value interventions


  • More targeted HRD interventions
  • Clearer goals and performance outcomes expected
  • Less time wasted
  • Increased opportunities for feedback about program outcomes

Overcoming Resistance Strategy #4: Provide incentives and rewards for results assessment.
You can't ask people in organizations to do things they fear without providing some kind of incentives and rewards for doing so. Introducing results assessment in organizations is no different, particularly when it is an optional rather than mandatory activity. Incentives and rewards serve several purposes, including sending clear signals about the importance of results assessment; encouraging participants to take risks; and gaining support from key opinion leaders.

One frequent response to this suggestion is the statement by HRD managers that they don't have the authority to offer incentives and rewards. We disagree.

Consider some of these examples:

  • Offering extra assistance to the first groups willing to participate
  • Giving preferential access to HRD resources for results assessment participants
  • Developing special interventions to address performance improvement needs
  • Publicly celebrating accomplishments of participating divisions or groups

Of course, upper management has more power to offer incentives and rewards; for example:

  • Extra resources to fund results assessment and subsequent interventions
  • Higher "status" to groups using best results assessment practices
  • Creating processes to review and act on results assessment recommendations
  • Publicly supporting and emphasizing results assessment

Organizations that are serious about results assessment recognize that incentives and rewards act as important signposts on the journey.

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