iStock_000014221701XSmallLast week, we presented our position on training metrics – that like fiber, training metrics may not always taste good, but they ARE good for you.  We received a good bit of feedback on how critical it is to measure the actual impact of training on an organization because as we said, “numbers are the language of management” and if you can’t measure it – you are going to have a difficult time managing it.

We also spoke to creating training efficiency metrics.  These include such measures as; number of students trained per instructor hour, number of seat minutes of eLearning per hour of development time, or the number of seat hours per minute per instructor.  This week, based upon your feedback, we’ll look at outcome measures of training or how to answer the age-old question – “What did I get for my training dollars?”

Looking strictly at the training event and participants, below is a partial list of ways to measure the outcome of training1:

  • Participant satisfaction at end of training, as well as X weeks afterwards, when they know the actual costs of the training 
  • Measurable change in knowledge or skill and the ability to solve a “mock” problem at the end of training and retention of knowledge X weeks after the end of training through assessments 
  • Self-reported changed behavior / used the skill or knowledge on the job after the training (within X months) 
  • Observed changed behavior / use of the skill or knowledge on the job after the training (within X months) 
  • Management Support – training seminar ranks high in forced ranking by managers of what factors (among miscellaneous staff functions) contributed most to productivity / profitability improvement 
  • Popularity (attendance or ranking) of the program compared to others (for voluntary training programs) 

Beyond these measures of training effectiveness (participant satisfaction, knowledge transfer and retention, self-reported and observed changed behavior), we should look to operational outcomes to measure the impact of our training activities as well.  Recognizing that training is not the sole variable in these measures, successful training programs look to be part of “moving the needle” in these four operational areas2.

Increased sales – If training is focused on sales or customer service, an effective program will increase sales results over time.  Be sure to take other factors (marketing, pricing, competition, etc.) into account when using this metric. Sales skills training may not be the only factor driving the increase in sales – but poorly-trained sales associates tend to leave money on the table when all other factors are equal.

Increased operational efficiency – In the slow growth economy of late, managers look for more operational efficiency to achieve their bottom line goals.  To determine training’s impact on productivity, be sure to monitor the same metrics your management team is watching, both before and after training is delivered.

Improved customer service – If your organization conducts customer service training, analyze your customer survey results continuously to validate the effectiveness of your training.  When your programs are designed to impact specific customer perceptions, survey scores can help you connect an increase in satisfaction back to training.

Increased profitability – Whatever your “it” is, getting it “right the first time” is a great way to improve its profitability.  The surest way to help individuals and groups get it right quickly is for them to consume a well-designed instructional experience delivered just when they need it. For that reason, training (when documented properly) can easily be linked to most organizational metrics.  If an organization shows increased profitability, you can bet someone learning a new skill or knowledge in a training program played a role in the new found financial success!  The impact of training may take some time to show up in operational results so be sure to engage your partners in operations to help you determine which metrics are most important to monitor over time.  Is it time to audit your training programs to determine what operational metrics you are intending to move?  Don’t forget to use your agreed upon metrics whenever you're developing new OR revamping existing training programs.  Once you can prove the bottom-line effectiveness of your training programs, your credibility will increase within your organization and your programs will become integral to your organization’s success.  Until next time, remember take care of the customer, take care of each other, and take care of yourself.

1Dr. John Sullivan, Head and Professor of Human Resource Management College of Business, San Francisco State University
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