What Is Evaluation?

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Evaluation means placing value or determining worth.1 It is a process of determining

how much value is being added to an activity by a program, and it is

through evaluation that the need for program improvements is identified and

such improvements are eventually made. Evaluation is typically carried out by

an evaluator or team of evaluators against a backdrop of client expectations

about the program and the need for information on which to make sound

decisions.

Interest in Evaluation

The evaluation of human resource programs has been a popular topic of numerous

books, articles, and professional presentations.2 Treatments of it have

tended to focus on such bottom-line issues as cost/benefit analysis and return

on investment,3 which should not be surprising since, in view of the perception

of HR practitioners, these issues are of chief interest to top managers.

Training has figured most prominently in this literature, probably because it

continues to enjoy the dubious reputation of being the first HR program to be

slashed when an organization falls on hard times.

On the other hand, writers on evaluation have tended to pay far less attention

to SP&M than to training. One reason could be that systematic SP&M is

less common in organizations than training is. A second reason could be that

evaluations of SP&M are informally made on a case-by-case basis whenever a

vacancy occurs in a key position: if a successor is ‘‘ready, willing, and able’’

when needed, the SP&M program is given the credit; otherwise, it is blamed.

While the value of SP&M should (of course) be judged on more than that basis

alone, the reality is often far different.