My name is Richard Eason and I launched this blog in April 2011. On the off chance that anyone is curious, below is some information on my background.
The short version: after gaining a business degree I joined the RAF as a Training & Development Officer in 1998. Since then I have held many different roles within both training and operational environments, including specific work delivering training evaluation projects across the RAF. The longer version:
Back in the early years…
I’m originally from Leeds, in the UK. After leaving school I headed further north where I spent 3 years gaining a degree at Newcastle Business School. After university I spent 6 months travelling and then a further few months gaining a second ‘education’ working as a hospital porter in the Accident & Emergency department at Jimmy’s (St James) hospital. Following this temporary employment I was lucky enough to be selected to join the Royal Air Force.
My time in the RAF
I joined as a Training & Development (T&D) Officer completing both Initial Officer Training and then my T&D professional training. Since then I have had a fantastic time in a variety of environments including:
- Engineering training schools;
- Flying stations;
- Aircrew training squadrons;
- Training Transformation (MoD).
From very early on in my career I realised that my job was a critical supporting function in the RAF. This understanding was reinforced after I was lucky enough to experience flights in several fast-jets. Witnessing the capability of these pilots first hand convinced me that training was fundamental in maintaining the key output of the RAF – the ability to deliver decisive air power.
My career has focused on contributing towards ensuring that everyone in the RAF, whatever their task, is properly trained to do their job. The RAF needs highly capable aircrew to operate the complex aircraft, but without highly trained engineers the aircraft would never get off the ground. If there aren’t well trained chefs on hand to feed the engineers then they’ll ‘down tools’. If the chefs pay is continually wrong because the HR team are not properly trained then they may ‘down spatulas’. The success of the organisation relies on effective training at all levels. But how do we ensure that our training is effective in order to maintain our key outputs, particularly in such a dynamic environment? I believe evaluating training plays a crucial role!
What about specific training evaluation work?
A few years ago I was posted to Air Command (RAF head office) and tasked with designing and implementing a new approach to training evaluation within the RAF. Whilst I already had a particular interest in the subject, this job really got me involved. It was very much a case of designing the process from scratch. The RAF delivers a lot of training and it was important that any system that was put in place focused on the key areas of our business. After 12 months, with the evaluation strategy in place, I was invited to an international defence conference to present on the work so far:
We set ambitious targets and by the time I moved on from this role, as well as establishing the new approach, I had led the team in conducting over 40 major evaluation projects. Examples included training of the following personnel:
- Air Traffic Control;
- RAF Police & Firefighters;
- Aircraft Engineers;
- HR Staff;
In addition to this specific trade training, we also conducted large scale evaluation projects into generic training, which included Initial Officer Training and all the leadership and management training courses that airmen & airwomen attend following promotion.
Training evaluation is such an important subject yet so often seems to be neglected. I decided that it would be useful, for me personally, if I catalogued all my thoughts on training evaluation – informed by both my reading and practical experience in the subject. As I started this process it occurred to me that perhaps other training professionals could also benefit from a central resource on training evaluation. Writing a blog seemed to be an ideal way to achieve this goal.
Why bother with training evaluation?
In addition to my training roles I have also completed operational tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan. It is these environments that really reinforce the need to ensure that everyone is highly trained and competent to carry out there jobs. I firmly believe that this applies to all organisations, whatever their particular ‘front-line’ happens to be.
I’m convinced that to ensure that you’re getting your training right, and keeping it aligned with business outputs, you should be conducting some effective training evaluation. I also believe that with some structure, guided by a coherent strategy, you can generate effective results with relatively little cost – particularly when you compare that cost as a % of the investment on the training itself.
What about the future?
I’m about to start studying a research MSc and I’m looking forward to enhancing how I approach business research. I’m sure I’ll have some opportunity to employ these skills within the RAF, but after that, who knows what the future holds?
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