Managing people

The importance of evaluating training effectiveness

Many businesses spend significant time and money training staff but fail to collect data to analyse whether they’re getting any business value from training.

Typically, they measure training effectiveness by gathering attendee feedback or counting how many employees complete courses, rather than by assessing whether those employees learned anything that was transferred to the workplace or improved business performance.

Is your training effective?

There’s little doubt that measuring the effectiveness of training programs consumes valuable time and resources. However, many training programs fail to deliver the expected organisational benefits, and without a well-structured measuring system in place, you’ve no idea that this is the case, or where the problem lies. 

If you undertake any workplace training, you must be able to assess how well the training program met the learner’s needs and objectives, what knowledge and skills it has imparted to learners, what desirable change it has brought in the learners’ performance, and what organisational benefits it has yielded. You also need to be able to show senior management that the time, resources and money expended is cost-effective.

Your training needs to evolve as the business world changes and you need to train staff in new technology, legislation, processes and the like to keep up and be competitive. If you’re able to demonstrate practical use cases for training to your organisation, this will help you gain more resources from important decision-makers in the business.

Your evaluation and assessment need to be ongoing, as a successful training program today may not be effective tomorrow.

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Track key metrics to reap real training benefits

Choosing the right training metrics is the key to creating real value from training. Consider your business’ list of quantitative business-performance indicators. For example, if you are a retailer pursuing better customer service and sales growth, you could get managers to provide real-time staff coaching and to role-model best-practice customer-engagement techniques. 

Rather than just measuring the managers’ time allocation or employee assessment data, you should measure the impact of its programs through hard business metrics, such as sales and conversion rates in critical categories or departments. 

Consider a scenario where you’re a manufacturer trying to improve operations by teaching plant supervisors lean-manufacturing and coaching skills. Rather than only tracking how many managers have been trained, instead of track metrics such as downtime, the overall effectiveness of equipment, or even fill rates.

No matter what industry your business is in or what size it is, you must continually review and revise the links between skills, performance and training programs.

To determine which metrics should be improved, assess your current performance against industry benchmarks or your own goals, and ensure you’ve identified the skills that are tied to different areas of performance. 

The next step is to conduct an analysis of individual groups of employees to identify the most important specific skills they require and which performance-enhancing skills they currently lack. 

To get a clear read on the impact of a training program, it’s crucial to take into account the influence of external factors during the evaluation period, such as the opening of new retail competitors in local markets, and extraordinary internal factors, such as a scheduled plant shutdown for preventative maintenance. 

It’s also crucial to make appropriate comparisons within peer groups defined by pre-existing performance bands or market types.

Male presenter at boardroom meeting with team to evaluate a training program

A barometer for measuring training effectiveness

Measurement is part of the total framework of training provision. Measuring your training’s impact and effectiveness ensures the training your business runs is necessary, effective and efficient. It enables your business to match the cost you’ve outlaid in the training’s design and implementation with the associated benefits your employees and the business receive.

Having the right metrics in place ensures that your measurement is both defensible and definable. By tying the curricula or context of training more closely to key performance metrics, and then measuring its impact on them, your business can generate greater value from training programs and glean useful insights to continually improve programs.

The more detailed the evaluation, the more information you’ll have on whether the training is working well, and, if it’s not, enable you determine why this is the case. This will help you make informed decisions on which programs to continue, and give you a better idea of the potential of future programs.

Ultimately, it will be both the learner’s ROI and the business’ ROI that are most valuable, and ROI builds a compelling financial case for funding future training programs.

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