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How to Conduct an Audit of Your Training and Development Initiatives

October 25, 2021 | By Asha Pandey


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:

  1. A training and development audit delivers objective benchmarks and insights into the status of your L&D programs.
  2. They’re imperative to evaluate the current performance and provide recommendations on the future direction of L&D strategies.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. Ensuring their (L&D initiative’s) alignment with enterprise goals and objectives.
  2. Evaluating their effectiveness in meeting committed training objectives.
  3. 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).
  4. 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:

  1. 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:
  • 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:
  • 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Audit Techniques

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Parting Thoughts

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.

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