An L&D audit is a key tool in understanding an organization’s L&D needs in terms of engagement and performance and productivity benchmarks. In this article, I highlight key thoughts, techniques, and strategies for auditing your L&D initiatives.
Why Should You Conduct an Audit of Your Training and Development Initiatives?
The rate of continuous change within organizations requires matching levels of institutional transformation. L&D teams need to align, adapt and embrace this change.
The way to successfully adapt, to ever-changing performance and productivity imperatives, is to conduct a training audit of your training and development initiatives. Here’s why:
- A training and development audit delivers objective benchmarks and insights into the status of your L&D programs.
- They’re imperative to evaluate the current performance and provide recommendations on the future direction of L&D strategies.
- In financial crises, training and education budgets are often the first cost-cutting casualties. Ongoing audits and assessments help change the senior management perspective of L&D – from cost-absorbers to performance drivers.
- By shining light on hereto unnoticed productivity and performance issues, a training audit serves as an invaluable tool to highlight how instrumental L&D teams are as value creators within the enterprise.
What Should Be the Key Focus Areas for Assessing Your Training Programs?
When approached with an overly broad scope, a training and development audit tends to lose its effectiveness. Additionally, excessively broad scopes mire the audit in tangential aspects that add no value to the effectiveness of the L&D function.
The key areas of focus, when auditing or assessing your L&D programs, must be:
- Ensuring their (L&D initiative’s) alignment with enterprise goals and objectives.
- Evaluating their effectiveness in meeting committed training objectives.
- Assessing the efficiency of the L&D team’s ability to design and deliver training. The key factors to keep in mind, when auditing “efficiency” include speed, agility, and cost-efficiency (budget utilization).
- Objectivity in the evaluation of actual accomplishments viz. the program’s planned objectives.
What Are the Key Components You Should Audit?
The five components, on which you should perform a training and development audit, include:
- L&D strategy: The organization’s L&D strategy is a key component of the audit and must focus on separate facets of building a strategy for learning and knowledge within the organization, and the impact this strategy has on learners and businesses:
- Training Needs Analysis (TNA): As part of your training audit to assess your L&D strategy, audit must evaluate whether the strategy adequately captures the gaps in learning needs. To do this, auditors must ensure the following:
- Gauge whether L&D strategies align with organizational goals/performance and assess the processes and procedures for capturing learner needs. The objective is to identify learning gaps that might need to be plugged.
- It’s vital to also evaluate prevailing practices to integrate learner needs into the organization’s L&D strategy.
- Learning Needs Analysis (LNA): Typically, knowledge-focused organizations plug learning needs through adequate training programs. This is where the focus of a training and development audit must pivot to evaluate the company’s training strategy. Specifically, auditors must:
- Learn more about metrics/KPIs used to monitor and evaluate employee performance.
- Understand how the organization captures and processes learner analytics data and feedback.
- Impact of L&D: Finally, the auditor must evaluate whether the various L&D plans, tactics, and actions, undertaken as a result of TNA and LNA, have delivered what they had intended to. More specifically, the auditor must:
Gauge the impact of the organization’s L&D strategy on learners and the business. They do this by tying various L&D initiatives to employee performance and how such performance benefited organizational performance.
- Internal L&D process: As businesses evolve, so do their L&D processes and procedures. If not thoughtfully designed, developed, and implemented, ad hoc L&D processes become bottlenecks. Specific process audit focus areas include:
- Process documentation – Including policies and guidelines as well as best practices.
- Cost-saving opportunities – Including justification for continuing the use of certain processes or potential benefits for reviewing, refining, or discontinuing others.
- Opportunities to maximize L&D output – This includes the potential to leverage strategic partnerships, contract in-house processes, or outsource L&D processes to maximize throughput and turnaround times.
- Codifying internal knowledge – Focus your training audit on your processes to capture and document lessons learned, organizational best practices, and other corporate L&D knowledge that contributes to productivity and performance gains.
- Technology stack: As business operations evolve, so too does L&D technology. Often, such evolution results in non-integrated, disjointed tools and technologies that impede, rather than facilitate, efficient training and development initiatives. Audit should validate/relook at the following so that the L&D function is well equipped:
- Communication and collaboration tools.
- Training design, development, and delivery tools.
- Learning data and analytics platforms.
- Other technologies, including project management, content management, and LMS systems.
- Budget: With training budget cuts, an L&D assessment can help justify the business case for continued investment in training initiatives. Two critical components of any L&D budget audit include:
- ROI determination – Highlighting the returns (financial benefits) delivered from training outlays (costs). This cost-benefit analysis forms the basis for justifying the continuation of L&D investments, especially in the face of a financial crisis.
- Planned vs actuals – Focus on objectively measuring planned budgetary outlays, against actual spending. Remember, it’s important to do an honest audit of both over and underspend, both of which may, potentially, have L&D impact on productivity and performance.
- Learning offerings: L&D auditors must put the organization’s entire learning offering under the microscope – end-to-end. This includes:
- Repositories and libraries of all accessible learning content offered through various media and conduits.
- Methods and options for building personalized learning journeys, including choice of certifications, personalized reskilling, and upskilling options, and the unique additional certification/re-certification needs of each learner.
- Training delivery platforms, tools, and technologies, including those developed/delivered in-house, as well as solutions available via third-party vendors and partners.
- Methodologies, methods, and metrics for evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of learning infrastructure as well as evaluating the success of the organization’s L&D strategies.
There are several highly effective audit techniques to choose from. Your choice will depend on various factors, including the extent of your L&D program, and the scope and objectives of the audit. Some techniques to consider include:
- Interviews: These may be structured (prepared questions) or unstructured (exploratory, free-format) and may be conducted remotely or in person. The advantage of interviews is that they allow auditors to press for follow-up details.
- Surveys: These are ideal for soliciting inputs from a large, geographically dispersed population. They are also a great tool to use after each L&D program.
- Focus groups: Using a small group of participants to secure facilitated inputs/feedback is a good way to conduct a focused assessment/audit of key L&D initiatives.
- Visual observations: Staff conducting the training audit may glean much from personal observations of L&D programs. These observations may occur throughout the lifecycle of L&D initiatives – from needs assessment to final delivery.
- Internal documentation and reports: Instructional Designers, Trainers, Managers, and HR professionals all produce documentation related to various facets of an organization’s L&D initiatives. Auditors can learn a lot from reviewing such documentation.
How to Convert the Audit into Actionable Steps?
Conducting a training and development audit is pointless unless the management converts the results/findings into tangible actions. Making a training and development audit actionable is a 2-step process:
- Assess and Identify
- Current State: The initial step aims to assess specific problem areas within training and development initiatives that require improvement, modification, or major revamping.
- Future State: Use the findings from the audit to identify detailed action plans, within specific areas, to build further organizational training and development capacity.
- Prioritize and Align
- This next phase involves prioritizing low-effort, high-impact actions that deliver the best ROI for L&D investment. In prioritizing those actions, auditors must ensure that all actions align with organizational goals and objectives.
A training and development audit is a critical tool in the arsenal of corporate managers seeking to expedite organizational transformation. These audits don’t just help companies evaluate themselves against industry L&D benchmarks, but they also assist in identifying areas of learning and development improvement and addressing learning and performance gaps through training.
I hope the techniques and strategies in this article provide the requisite cues on how to audit your training and development initiatives effectively.
- eBook: Cracking the Code – How to Measure and Maximize the Business Impact of Your Corporate Training Programs
- How to Leverage the Training Needs Analysis Phase to Measure the Business Impact of Training?
- Tips and Strategies to Demonstrate the Value of Your Training Programs
- How to Identify the Right Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs
- How to Build a Culture of Innovation and Experimenting in L&D by Leveraging the Expertise of a Strategic Partner
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