Evaluations provide key information at all stages of drug-free workplace program development and ensure program effectiveness.
From its outset, your drug-free workplace program should be monitored, measured for progress, and tracked for results. Even if you already have some or all of the program in place and have not been doing evaluations, you can still begin to evaluate.
Plan to review and evaluate your program on an ongoing basis. Do not be discouraged if you don't see results right away. There is always room for change and improvement for both short-term and long-term goals.
Evaluation can help you improve your drug-free workplace program and understand how it has affected your workplace. Evaluation can tell you if what you are doing is working and whether it is cost-effective. An initiative can fail at any point in the cycle, so continuing the evaluation process will help you see where changes are needed.
Ideally, an evaluation protocol should be developed before the program is designed and implemented, based on the goals and objectives of the program.
The evaluation cycle follows these steps:
- Reiterate the goals of the drug-free workplace policy and program. Learn more about how to develop a policy.
- Design strategies for accomplishing the program objectives with the resources you have available, as identified when you assessed workplace needs.
- Determine the key activities that will be a part of your program and what outcomes you hope to achieve as you plan and implement a program. Select assessment methods that can measure your organization's progress toward achieving your objectives and goals. Evaluate the outcomes and the processes that contribute to those outcomes.
- Gather, analyze, and interpret assessment data.
- Continually improve processes and outcomes, using the results of the assessment.
To evaluate whether your policy and program are successful, you need (1) a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve; and (2) an assessment of whether the program is meeting the needs and goals that you identified when you assessed your workplace.
Be sure that you have linked each goal to something measureable. For example, if one goal is to "have employees who are drug-free," determine what this means and how you intend to measure it. Broad goals are often measured by defining and measuring more concrete objectives that support the goal.
Get a Baseline
Document what your workplace looked like before you began activities related to creating a drug-free workplace policy and program. This baseline information gives you a basis for comparison after you have developed your policy and program and set them in motion.
Review the qualitative data. What were your supervisory and nonsupervisory employees saying about the safety, health, and productivity of your workplace before the program began? What was the morale of the organization before your drug-free workplace policy and program were implemented?
Analyze the quantitative data. What were the numbers on turnover, absenteeism, tardiness, use of health care benefits, and workers' compensation claims? Have there been changes over time? What was the percentage of loss, including theft, accidents, and poor-quality goods? Estimate the costs of these factors in dollars, if possible. Try to get the data for past years. If this is not possible, start tracking trends now.
Learn more about qualitative and quantitative assessment methods.
Outcome data should be analyzed in terms of the goals and objectives set forth at the start of the program. They should then be interpreted by assessing the related process data. Taken together, the evaluation results will help you gauge what is working and could be enhanced and what is not working and should be changed.
Document the steps taken before and while developing and implementing the policy and program. Recording this information will help you remember what actions were taken and determine how the process can be improved.
A process check after training or an education session can be helpful. Keep track of the number of attendees at each session. Ask attendees questions to gauge if they are finding the sessions useful and enjoyable and if they have ideas for improvement.
This process check gives immediate feedback and helps pinpoint what is working and what is not. Responses often are more frank if the feedback is in writing and anonymous.
Levels of Evaluation
After implementation, begin to review your drug-free workplace policy and program. Specifics are important. Gather information that goes beyond employees sharing that they "liked the training" or "learned a lot." Remember to keep your employees' responses confidential. If you respect their right to confidentiality, you will be more likely to get better information and a more complete picture.
Evaluating reactions consists of surveying employees on their feelings about important elements of the program. You can do this by asking employees to complete a short evaluation form at the end of the program.
Evaluation questions usually concentrate on what was most helpful, what was least helpful, how competent the trainer was, and how well the sessions were paced. The survey can include basic questions, such as: Was the program useful? Did the program meet your expectations? What could have been done better?
This level of evaluation assesses whether participants have learned the ideas, facts, or processes that were presented. In a basic drug-free workplace training program, you might want to see whether participants learned the details of the policy and the consequences of not adhering to the policy.
In a drug-free workplace program embedded within a health initiative, you will likely have additional learning goals. For example, you could measure the extent to which your employees learned productive ways of dealing with job stress. You could ask a series of questions on the topic at the start of the session, and then ask those same questions again on a one-page survey at the end of the session. This approach also reinforces knowledge gains.
Behavior evaluation focuses on whether employees have used what they have learned to change various behaviors. For example, in the Workplace Managed Care (WMC) project, researchers used the Health Behavior Questionnaire (HBQ) to assess self-reported changes in supervisors' and employees' behaviors. The HBQ emphasizes substance use, health, and related factors such as stress-relief strategies, alcohol consumption, and use of employee assistance program (EAP) services.
Observing change is another measure of behavior. One example is to calculate supervisor referrals to EAP services before and after the program. However, changes in behavior are, in general, more difficult to achieve and measure than changes in knowledge. If fully analyzing behavior changes is beyond your organization's capacities, you may have records readily available about the use of some services (for example, the EAP provider may give you a monthly count of calls) or you might be able to periodically and anonymously survey a sample of employees about their behaviors.
This level of evaluation measures outcomes such as decreased absenteeism, decreased loss of inventory, or increased morale. The WMC project measured results by looking at changes in substance-use-related medical claims. This helped in assessing whether the worksite prevention and health-promotion programs had any effect in encouraging employees to seek and get help in the short term and in decreasing substance-use-related medical claims in the long term. Results evaluations can be costly, but they also are the most effective for determining the actual benefits of a program.
After you have completed the evaluation, compare the results with your baseline and with the program goals. If you have a comparison site that did not use the program, you also can compare the evaluation results with data from the comparison site.
- Was there an initial assessment? Is the assessment helping to guide your policy and program?
- Did the assessment correctly identify workplace needs? Does the program have objectives that address the identified workplace needs?
- Are the right employees getting the program?
- Does the program seem to be working as it was intended? That is, is the content being delivered?
- Are the employees learning what you intended them to learn?
- Are the employees actually applying the knowledge gained?
- Is the workplace achieving the established goals?
- What can you do better next time?