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Anonymous Versus Signed Evaluations-What Works Best?


By: 
Date: July 25 2001

Anonymous Evaluations

Introduction

Giving participants a chance to remain anonymous on an evaluation could have a big effect in what kind of feedback you receive. Will the feedback be overly harsh because the trainer won´t know who´s writing what? If you ask for names - does that mean trainers won´t get enough feedback because the participants fear what they write will come back to haunt them? Here are some advantages and disadvantages to anonymous and signed evaluations and what you can do to make your evaluations most effective.

1. Anonymous Evaluations

Advantages

  • Allow People To Be Honest And Provide Constructive Criticism

Many trainers believe they will get truthful comments from participants if they don´t ask for names on the evaluations.

Disadvantages

·               Leave Opportunity For Participants To Write Harmful Or Irrelevant Comments

At the same time, if participants aren´t asked to sign an evaluation form, they might be a little harsher in their comments than if they were asked to sign it. Some trainers have complained these harmful comments sometimes have nothing to do with the actual training, but more on what the trainer was wearing, or his or her physical appearance. In one case, someone complained about the quality of paper the training manual was printed on.

  • Trainers Aren´t Able To Follow-up With Participants

If someone leaves a comment that you would like to discuss further, there is no way of getting a hold of this person because his or her name wasn´t left on the evaluation.

2. Signed Evaluations

Advantages

  • Provide Contact Information

Asking participants to sign an evaluation will give the trainer opportunity to follow-up, as well as allowing them to contact participants for further training seminars. Also, putting a face to the name on the evaluation may increase the credibility of the comment.

  • Comments Gathered Could Be Used For Marketing Materials

Positive comments trainers receive from participants can be useful in brochures and other marketing materials.

Disadvantages

·               Participants May Not Feel Secure Leaving Their Names

There is an issue of trust when participants leave their names on evaluations. Many participants don´t believe trainers when they say that comments will be kept confidential.

  • Participants May Fear They Will No Longer Receive Training Because Of Their Comments

Those who sign evaluations and provide honest - and not so likeable feedback - may fear they will no longer receive training, as it may seem to the managers and the trainer that participants don´t appreciate it.

  • Participants May Fear Their Comments Will Come Back To Haunt Them

Employees don´t always want to give their names for fear that their comments will have a negative affect on their job; that if they say something the trainer or the employer won´t like it will get around to the rest of the office.

3. How To Make The Most Out Of Your Evaluations - Signed Or Unsigned

Some trainers or participants say that effective evaluations have nothing to do with the fact that they are signed or unsigned. Here are some ideas that may help you make your evaluations more useful.

·               Be Specific When Asking Questions

Some say that the reason trainers get irrelevant information is because the questions aren´t specific enough and lack relevance. Ask yourself a lot of questions when designed your evaluation: what you really want to know from participants; how the feedback you receive will benefit in making your training better; how you expect to use the information you gather, etc. Generally, open-ended questions are better than asking questions that simply require a yes or no answer.

·               Make Signing Evaluations An Option

When designing your evaluations, allow room for participants to sign their names and contact information, but don´t make it mandatory. Because you gave them a choice, participants may be more inclined to leave positive constructive criticism.

  • Take an Appreciative Inquiry Approach
    People often interpret a request for "feedback" as a request for "criticism".   Thus one gets the silly comments about "lousy coffee" when asking for feedback on an important training session.   An appreciate inquiry approach suggests asking for feedback on "the most helpful and valuable parts of the course."   This feedback can direct the trainer on what to build on, rather than distract them (and the trainee) with a focus on unimportant shortcomings.   (To learn more search our site for "appreciate inquiry")

Conclusion

Although all the views have some value, many of them seem to be outlining the worst case scenario and don´t seem to be giving participants enough credit. It´s hard to believe some of these things would happen very often in a company staffed by professionals.   For example, one irrelevant comment about the "paper in the manual" shouldn´t be enough to make you give up on anonymous evaluations. Always remember that you´re dealing with adults who expect to be treated as such.

Most importantly, there is much more thought that should be put into designing your evaluations other than if participants should sign the paper or not. Ask specific questions that will benefit you in improving your training.


Do you know of any advantages or disadvantages anonymous or signed evaluations? Tell me what you think - e-mail me at MissOpenSource@hr.com. If you wish to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.



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