Companies invest billions of dollars on half-day, full-day, and multi-day workshops with the hope that these one-time events will somehow make a difference. Vendors, who would rather sell workshops than results, are eager to claim that their product will make a difference. So it is a marriage made in heaven. What companies don’t know much about is if these one-time workshops truly change behavior significantly.

In the latest issue of T+D, Laurie Carrick takes on this question as it relates to developing emotional
intelligence (EI) competencies in leaders. She writes about conducting an extensive evaluation of a four-hour, EI workshop for 11 people in a company. She describes her measures in this way:

…this study included pretest quantitative Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) assessments and qualitative behavioral event interviews. The participants completed the EQ-i assessment before participating in the one-hour interviews that took place 30 days prior to the learning initiative. The participants attended the training class (learning initiative), which included the distribution of the EQ-i pre-assessment results. Six weeks after the learning initiative, each participant received a 90-minute critical incident interview session combined with a 30-minute coaching session and program evaluation…Three months after the learning initiative, the participants completed an EQ-i self-assessment post-test.

Carrick concludes from her findings that while the workshop raised awareness of EI, it was the combination of the workshop and post-workshop coaching that resulted in competency development. I am not surprised by this conclusion but I think she has missed one of the key factors in learning: the evaluation activity. Her study brought unusual attention to the workshop and EI, heightening the perceived value within the company. The regular assessments caused participants to reflect on the meaning of EI, their learning, and application of that learning. The evaluation process must have shaped expectations and reinforced learning. I would have to conclude that it was not only the workshop and post-workshop coaching that made the difference, but it was also the evaluation process itself that contributed to competency development.