Information Dashboards: how do you display results?

I have recently been looking at some training evaluation reports and was disapointed at how the results were displayed. It reminded me that we need to continually think carefully about the way that we present information to ensure our work recieves the attention it deserves.

The fact is, when time is precious, and information flow is high, we need to receive key facts and figures in a way that we can easily interpret them and identify what actions should be taken as a result of the information shown. I believe this applies in any context and is certainly relevant in displaying evaluation results. Using information dashboards (?)This term originates from the concept of a vehicle dashboard – all the key information (speed, fuel, engine temperature etc) is presented graphically in one place so that at a glance you can quickly gain an overview of the situation at any given time. can be an effective technique.

There is a danger that because we have been so engrossed in our work and have a firm grasp of the detail we don’t always consider the best way of presenting that information to somebody who has not previously been involved. For those who maybe new to presenting information, what follows are my thoughts, with an example, on how you can introduce information dashboards for training evaluation results.

Think pictures…

It is not just senior management who want to swiftly assimilate information – we all have a desire to quickly understand information that we are presented with. Creating information dashboards allows people to quickly ‘get the picture’ rather than having to read through lines of text or data to understand what the information is actually presenting.

An example to illustrate information dashboards in use…

Following attendance on two different training events (course A and course B) participants were asked to rate how well prepared they felt they were to conduct a range of tasks following training. This table shows the accumulative scores for 20 respondents. The following scale was used:

1 = Very prepared, all areas.
2 = Very prepared, most areas.
3 = Prepared, all areas.
4 = Prepared in most areas.
5 = Not prepared in most areas.

Results presented in a table format…

Information Dashboard tables

Information presented in a dashboard format…

Red, Amber, Green…

As well as creating a picture I have also introduced some meaning to the colours by using what is sometimes referred to as a RAG chart (Red, Amber, Green). These colours are used along the principles of the traffic light system. Green is generally good, amber suggests caution and red warns of danger. Introducing this principle into your data reporting can further enhance your information dashboards and enable quick identification of areas that may need a more detailed investigation.

Analysing the results…

Whilst the table contains the same information I find the graphs much easier to interpret. The colours further enhance the graphs. My initial interpretation is that I am very happy with the results for course A. However, the results for course B immediately suggest that it may need a closer examination. Based on these results, it is possible that course B is not adequately preparing individuals for their workplace role.

There are many principles associated with smart data analysis but I won’t be covering these issues in this post. However, imagine you are the training manager and you are trying to determine where to focus the energy of one of your training designers. You have received some initial data on how prepared individuals were after training across 10 different courses that your department delivers. Would you rather receive a sheet of A4 with 10 mini tables or a sheet of A4 with 10 mini graphs like the ones above? I vote for the graphs – an information dashboard approach!

What works for you?

There are obviously many different styles you could adopt by introducing information dashboards into your training evaluation reports. The scenario above is a very simple example which hopefully illustrates the point. Could you see this technique working for you? Do you have any top tips on ways of illustrating training evaluation results that others could benefit from?

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