You have recently launched a highly-anticipated, company-wide training initiative. You have secured the best facilitators—ones with air-tight content—and, following the positive response received from the first training session, you are in a celebratory mood. Up until one of your associates asks, “How do we know if it was really a success? And how are we planning to follow-up?” Questions that you have been evading for quite some time now; simply because you haven’t found a satisfactory answer to either. Yet.
You have sent out a post-training questionnaire, where participants will rank your efforts on a scale of 1 to 5. But, how about the on-ground reality? Are the trainees able to practice what they have learned in the recent program? Will those learned concepts ever see the light of the day?
Whenever an organization experiences turbulence, the training department is the first to face the axe. This is true for small, mid-sized, and large organizations.
This pattern can be attributed to the fact that when it comes to measuring training impact, training practitioners have not been able to go beyond smiley sheet surveys i.e. questionnaires/feedback forms. These are filled in immediately after the training has taken place which elicit answers according to the participants’ immediate emotional response to the sessions. According to the Workplace Learning Report by LinkedIn, Return On Investment (ROI) is the second measure desired by CEOs, but only 4% ever see the actual ROI of Learning & Development (L&D).
If we want to successfully measure the real return of training, we need to follow the breadcrumbs.
As Simon Sinek puts it best, the most optimum way to start, is by asking why. Why did we conduct this training in the first place? Why do these set of participants want to attend the training? The answer to the first question will help you determine the outcome of the training, and the responses to your second question will help you figure out the appropriate training design.
Here are a few aspects to consider before you measure the value of your training effort:
- Determine how business units will define success: Eventually, it’s the on-ground results that count. Conducting a successful session on negotiation skills is not a ‘job well done.’ Ask how many deals were closed due to the employees’ newly acquired skills or if there was a quantifiable % reduction in the number of escalations due to successful negotiation? What is it that businesses hope to achieve from a training intervention? Successfully determining this first step will define the rest of the evaluation process.
- Measuring is not a one-time activity: There are several factors that lead to success. In Kirkpatrick terminology, these are called leading indicators. Measuring those intangible leading indicators is necessary to understand if critical employee behaviors are on track to create a positive impact on the desired results. The data is used to ensure that behaviors and drivers are meeting certain standards and that positive outcomes are beginning to occur. It provides the data to create a dashboard to keep business informed of the progress.
- Evaluation pre- and post-training: If you need to measure the true value of a training program, it is necessary to measure employee behaviors before the training intervention, so you can discover the baseline. For instance, if the goal is to improve performance of virtual teams, a baseline assessment among participants can occur before the program and again at appropriate intervals afterward (quarterly, half-yearly, and annually) to determine the level of improvement.
- Collect data from all stakeholders: Merely collecting data only from the participants and their managers may not give you a complete picture. Gather data from participants, managers, peers, senior leaders, and other stakeholders; all those with whom participants may have a direct connection.
- Use technology to measure the impact of training: Tools like Promote have been proven to help L&D professionals measure training. Key performance indicators, for progress and evaluation of success, are seamlessly built in to the training programs.
“Promote allows you to keep track on progress and to act on deviations and accomplishments in real time and is fully aligned with the world’s greatest thought leaders in evaluation of training and performance.” – Kirkpatrick and Brinkerhoff
Measuring training can be tricky. However, if you have clarity about the goals of your evaluation, the metrics you intend to use to measure success, and the data needs of your business owners; you will be able to show the true value of a learning and development intervention.