Training budgets are often vulnerable when expenditure is being scrutinised and it’s therefore important to ensure that you are spending what resources you do have wisely if you are to achieve a return on the investment.
One of the key learning objectives in any training programme should be to leave the delegates with the ability to take practice steps straight away. Training needs to be structured around an individual’s own work challenges using content which is relevant to them and leaves them in a position where they can put the newly learnt skills into practice back in the workplace straight away.
Training is more likely to be successful, and provide a return on investment, the more the delegates are able to practice techniques and exercise specific to their role. The content of any workshop or training programme needs to be practical, rich with content and the majority of time spent on individual and group work. Hopefully delegates are no longer being subjected to dull, classroom based learning or power point presentations.
Quality training is not only key to achieving ROI on spend but can also prevent any unpleasant surprises when it comes to monitoring and measuring its effectiveness after the event. If, as just mentioned, the training is practical and tailored, it will already be ahead of the game when it comes to measuring effectiveness.
And to be sure that a business is spending its resources wisely, measuring and reporting the value gained must be an integral part of the whole process.
There are a number of approaches which look to measure and report the value gained from training by gauging the reactions of the participants. One of the most simple and popular approaches is the Kirkpatrick/Phillips model, which measures effectiveness at five levels:
At the first level, the reaction to, and satisfaction with, the learning is measured. This is where ‘happy sheets’ are used to find out what delegates thought about the training or learning experience. As you might expect, just because someone provides positive feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that they have actually learnt a new skill or knowledge to help improve their performance at work. However, negative feedback is likely to reveal if the training had little or no value. Happy sheets are an inexpensive and simple tool which provides immediate feedback, although they need to be carefully designed for maximum effectiveness.
Level two moves on from the participants’ learning satisfaction to addressing the changes in their knowledge, learning and attitudes. Analysing this information is more complex than the first level as it involves establishing to what degree the training has provided new skills which can be taken back into the workplace. This can be applied to team or individual assessments and typically uses written or verbal tests before and after a session, to determine how much has been learnt. Other assessment tools such as role play or skill practices can also be useful.
The application of the new skills in the work environment is addressed at level three of the model. Are we seeing outcomes – real world changes and is that then resulting in changes in the business? By looking at a person’s post training behaviour and attitude it’s possible to determine to what extent they are using their newly learnt skills and knowledge in their everyday job. It’s important to look at this level of the evaluation with a long time view, to assess the relevance and sustainability of behavioural change at different stages, over an agreed period of time. The co-operation of a line manager or departmental head is essential for this evaluation exercise to be carried out effectively.
This is the point at which you should be asking the question “are we seeing benefits?” To what extent has training had an impact in terms of production, quality, expenditure and time, or on the organisation’s wider goals and objectives?
Level five goes beyond looking at the business benefits, as even if the training results in significant business improvement, it’s still important to determine whether the benefits were worth the cost. The final step is to establish whether the business case delivered – did you get a return on your investment?
At this point, it can be useful to go right back to the beginning, when you are thinking about the type of training you need. You can measure all you like, but if you haven’t got the right training in place, you will never achieve ROI. At the outset, you need to ensure that you work with a training provider who will listen to what you need and put together a programme tailored specifically to your requirements.
It will be too late if, at any stage of your evaluation, you get negative feedback in terms of poor training delivery or, worse still, discover that new skills may have been learnt but they are completely the wrong ones.
While this model may not touch on some of the wider benefits of training, and may miss some of the more difficult to measure, yet very real benefits, it can be used to really challenge how we are spending our training budgets.
Good training is a vital differentiator for organisations that are going to be successful, and it needs to be strategic, thought through, and closely linked in with business requirements.
As well as establishing ROI in training, this particular evaluation model can determine whether a programme meets its objectives. It will uncover any strength or weaknesses and ultimately help towards making a decision about training investment and establishing priorities.
A successful outcome is more likely to be achieved when there is a solid partnership between a competent corporate trainer and the organisation receiving the training. In this way, when the training session is complete, the employer can continue the good work and help an employee to engage through repetitive skill practice to help apply the newly learned skills.
It is important to look at the long term view, even if training does delivery results in significant business improvement. You can take a look at the evaluation of post training behaviour at different stages over an agreed period of time, to assess the sustainability of behavioural change.
The benefit of any training programme should be seen to have an impact in terms of productivity, quality expenditure and time, as well as perhaps on wider goals and objectives.
John Edmonds is an experienced project and programme manager and is Director of Strategy and Marketing and Head of Training at learning and development company pearcemayfield www.pearcemayfield.com