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Measuring the impact of employee training: what you need to know

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Kerrie-Anne Chinn, Content & Editorial Manager
2017-02-08

Most companies invest a significant amount of time and money in training their employees, to improve staff competencies and increase productivity and profits. However, very few companies are taking the time to evaluate the impact of employee training.

This is surprising – when making any kind of large investment, such as a house or new car, it’s common practice to weigh up the costs and outcomes to see if the investment is worthwhile. You’d think that in the same way, companies who invest a lot of money into training for their employees would want to see the results of this spending.

 

But many companies are failing to follow through on this important step, leaving them unclear of the impact of training on their organization and their return on investment (ROI). A recent study found that 96% of of learning and development leaders are searching for ways to improve data gathering and analysis on training, yet only 17% currently measure impact. This leaves a huge 83% of organizations without the right data to measure and evaluate the success of their training.

Getting a Good ROI on Employee Training

Why are employers leaving themselves in the dark when it comes to knowing the value of their staff training programs? Without any data or figures being collected, how do you know whether your training program is money well spent?

Training methods need to be effective in engaging staff and bringing benefits to the organization. You’ll know whether training is a worthwhile investment by measuring the impact it has on your employees and organization.

Finding Out How Training Benefits Your Company

The first thing you need to identify are the benefits that employee training is bringing to the organization. This is the core question at the heart of training evaluation. Ideally, you should be seeing organizational benefits that can be converted into dollar values, thus indicating their worth to your organization.

Being able to recognize and name these benefits will also build a case for continued spending in this area, showing what the organization has gained through learning and development. These measurements will help you prove the importance of training to management, helping you build a solid business case for further funding.

Using Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation Model

So how do you identify these benefits, reducing them to clear figures and numbers? 

One of the most popular ways to assess the impact of training is by using an evaluation model known developed by Donald Kirkpatrick, past president of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD). 

Kirkpatrick pioneered what is referred to as the ‘four levels of evaluation’ – a way to measure the impact of training programs for organizations using the four levels (which you can think of as steps) outlined below.

Reaction – first, employees are evaluated to determine responses to their training, gaining insight on whether they found the training to be relevant, valuable or engaging

Learning – next, you need to establish the degree to which employees learned intended knowledge from the training, to determine if training objectives are met through pre and post evaluation of the participants’ knowledge and skill level

Behavior – this next step looks at behavioral changes as a result of training, to see whether or not training is being applied on the job

Results – finally, you need to evaluate the tangible results the company received from the training program, such as: improved productivity, reduced costs, higher quality product, lower staff turnover, increased profits and sales.

While all four evaluation steps are necessary to determine full impacts, your ROI is most determined by the final ‘results’ step – which is often the part that is neglected most!

Using Staff Productivity as an Indicator of Training Impacts

Let’s break down one of these tangible results to look closer at Kirkpatrick’s model. Productivity in itself is a very good indicator of the success of your company’s training methods.

Ask yourself whether training has made a positive impact on productivity levels of individual staff. Be specific (or ask managers to be specific) when answering this question. For example, can employees perform certain tasks more quickly since their training? Do they need less help from supervisors and managers to complete their tasks? Are fewer mistakes and errors being made?

When staff need less supervision, managers and team leaders have more time to focus on their higher level duties. And with improved productivity levels, you’ll have less overtime and often increased profits – giving you a solid indicator of your ROI in numbers. If you can see these kinds of improvements after staff training sessions, you’re most likely getting a good return on your investment.

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