EEE Week: Kim Norris on Creating an Evaluation Culture

My name is Kim Norris and I am an Evaluation Coordinator for University of Maryland Extension, specializing in organizational and systems change efforts.

Developing a culture of evaluation for non-formal educational organizations is critical to providing focus and accountability, yet challenging.  Funders and other stakeholders seek clearly communicated, robust, timely information about program impacts for target audiences.  However, if changes occur too quickly or without appropriate employee input, pushback can lead organizations to expend resources regaining employee loyalty.

Hot Tip: Follow these six steps when creating a culture of evaluation:

  1. Work from where your employees are. Communicate with employees about what they perceive to be the greatest benefits and challenges to achieving desired changes. Welcome feedback from employees throughout the process to avoid moving too fast or slowly.
  2. Balance benefits for the employee and organizational evaluation needs.  Every major change may mean additional work for employees. Clearly describe and implement advantages for employees, as well. E.g., if more time is expected to ensure certain data is collected, give employees kudos and reports that help them enrich their Cv.
  3. Develop a timeline with employees. Employees will be making changes along with you and need to agree to the timeline. Include deadlines for processes affecting employee workloads and those benefiting employees.  When possible, roll these out together.
  4. Provide training opportunities and data tools that match the needs of your audiences. Online data collection systems should be simple and intuitive to use. Employees and collaborators need training regarding new expectations, tools, and protocols.  Utilize online short modular trainings that create a “building blocks” approach to training. Provide training timelines that allow learning to occur at reasonable rates.
  5. Link expectations to performance review incrementally.  If no link exists, efforts may still be stagnant; if too much is expected, pushback may occur.  Expect employees to carry out one to two new processes well each cycle – e.g., Year 1: writing higher quality program narratives; Year 2: utilizing quantitative outcomes tools, etc.  Communicate items included in performance reviews in advance; provide strong training and support mechanisms for those items. Include employee performance reviews of the process and your leadership in it; a culture of evaluation includes evaluating your own efforts.
  6. Share good stories and reward good work.  Communicate quality efforts internally and externally.  Provide avenues for reward so that individuals see benefits for their efforts and others see how a job well done looks.

Rad Resource: This table shows a sample timeline for integrating evaluation into multiple levels of programmatic decision-making and reporting.  The timeline shows how an iterative approach was implemented and efforts were made to balance employee gains with increased expectations and accountability.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Extension Education Evaluation (EEE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the EEE Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our EEE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

2 thoughts on “EEE Week: Kim Norris on Creating an Evaluation Culture”

  1. The process of building an evaluation culture is one that receives a fair amount of attention amongst our AEA presenters and members. I suspect that owes to our experiences trying to encourage others to see things the way we do, evaluatively (whatever that might mean!). I did a quick search in our eLibrary and found 37 postings related to this topic:

  2. Kim I appreciate your post. It reaffirms for me the reminder I give myself about the time it takes to change a culture. Your common sense points and table articulate a process that is respectful of the employee and organization’s need.

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