The What and Why of Program Evaluation

You can better manage what you measure. You do want to maximize the management of your wellness program, correct?

The What of Evaluation

Program evaluation is a systematic examination using research methods to collect and analyze data to assess how well what you are doing is working and why. Evaluations answer specific questions about program performance and can also focus on assessing program operations or results. Evaluation results can be used to assess a program’s effectiveness, identify how to improve its performance, or guide future resource allocation.

For evaluation purposes, a program can be defined in various ways such as an activity, project, intervention or initiative. In order to be able to be evaluated though, a program must have an identifiable purpose or set of objectives, as these will be used by an evaluator to assess how well the purpose or objectives were met. Evaluations may also assess whether your efforts had unintended and perhaps undesirable outcomes. An evaluation can assess an entire program or focus on just one activity or intervention. This is important as you may want to evaluate individual activities or interventions to assess how well they are being received or if they are effective.

Program evaluation is closely related to program performance measurement and reporting. Performance measurement is the systematic ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, especially progress toward pre-established goals or standards. Performance measures or indicators may address staffing and resources (inputs), the type or level of activities conducted (process), the products or services delivered (outputs), or the results (outcomes) achieved through the use of products and services.

The Why of Program Evaluation

Typically, program evaluation is used to provide accountability for how resources are being used, or to learn how program performance might be improved. Evaluations can also play a key role in strategic planning, program design, program execution and program management by providing feedback to funders and delivery personnel.

It is an important part of every worksite wellness program to periodically report on their activities and results. You can better manage what you measure. Tracking, monitoring and measuring are also important to any type of continuous quality improvement effort.

It is important to also remember that measuring just program outcomes alone may not provide the information you need to properly assess your effectiveness. You want your program’s evaluation strategy to provide as large and detailed picture as possible. You always want to be in a position whereby you can answer the questions senior leaders may ask about the program’s performance.

Program evaluation should not be taken lightly. Evaluating your efforts can go a long way towards making your worksite wellness initiative effective and successful.