While most business leaders understand the inherent value of corporate L&D, it’s important as responsible partners in business to demonstrate the value of training. This article provides tips and strategies to demonstrate the value of training programs.
Why Is It Critical to Demonstrate the Value of Training?
In professions where the results of poorly trained and underqualified employees turn into high-stakes negative results, like the military, various emergency services, and medical professions, the value of training is implied and recognized. Those organizations train often and effectively. But in organizations where the results of training are less stark, it’s more difficult to demonstrate the value of training and development.
Regardless of how obvious the results, it’s critical to demonstrate the value of training to an organization. Learning and development efforts cost time and money and should result in increases in effectiveness, efficiency, and ultimately gain in revenue. Business leaders are hesitant to invest in efforts that are not demonstrably effective and contributing to the bottom line.
What Are the Challenges in Demonstrating the Value of Training?
In lower-stakes professions, the value of training is not always a given. Sometimes, it’s difficult to identify a direct connection between training and revenue.
Take for example training during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations, as business slowed, leveraged the extra time employees suddenly found themselves with by filling it up with training. Training leaders were excited to report increased time spent on training (sometimes two and three times more than the previous years). However, without a clear correlation proving that the increase in training created additional innovations and other positive business impacts, it is difficult for business leaders to continue to justify the increase in training courses and time.
It is often difficult to draw a direct line to the impact training has on company revenue. There are many factors that impact revenue, and business leaders are hesitant to call out training as the cause. On the other hand, when performance drops, an increase in training is often the knee-jerk reaction of many business leaders.
Sometimes, it is difficult to gain access to proper metrics when demonstrating the value of training, or even access to the right technology. Additionally, measuring training effectiveness is time-consuming and, sometimes, difficult to assess.
What Strategies Can Help You Demonstrate the Value of Your Training and Development Programs?
Strategy #1 – Start with the End
What should be measured: Before embarking on any training development solutions, it’s important to work with business leaders to identify and clearly and objectively articulate the problem that needs to be solved. In the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) phase, call out the metrics that prove the success or failure of those problem-solving efforts.
How should it be measured: While identifying the problem, working with business leaders to identify the salient metrics, it’s important to identify the process and frequency of measurement. Too often, metrics are identified but are soon forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday business.
Starting with the end in mind ensures that the training solution will attack the actual business problem. And it also ensures that the metrics used to identify the problem can also be measured and tracked to demonstrate the value of the training.
The following are examples of measurable metrics available to most businesses:
- Employee engagement.
- Employee turnover.
- Corporate safety and compliance issues.
- Product innovations.
- Customer engagement.
- Net Promoter Score (NPS) and customer satisfaction.
- Customer retention.
- Business revenue.
- Cost savings.
- Employee and process performance.
Strategy #2 – Align Training Metrics with Business Key Performance Indicators
When measuring the effectiveness of training, it’s important to work with business leaders to identify enterprise Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This ensures that the training metrics being measured align to those things that indicate success in the business, as recognized by business leaders. They will clearly demonstrate the value of training and development.
This also ensures that training efforts will align with enterprise strategy and tactics, supporting those actions the business is working to implement. For example, an important metric might be the number of product innovations developed by product teams. Training on a topic like design thinking aligns with innovation enterprise strategies and, if done correctly, should contribute to the increase in product innovations, demonstrating the value of training and development.
Strategy #3 – Select the Training Evaluation Metrics
There are several models that measure the effectiveness of training. Choose one or more and customize them to your organizational dynamics and the end goals. The list below summarizes a few:
- Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM): LTEM is an assessment that comprises eight strategies: (1) Attendance, (2) Activity, (3) Learner Perceptions, (4) Knowledge, (5) Decision-Making Competence, (6) Task Competence, (7) Transfer, and (8) Effects of Transfer. This model proposes that the first two strategies (Attendance and Activity) do not offer enough data to determine effectiveness but provide a foundation for each succeeding level.
- Kaufman’s five levels of evaluation: This model comprises five levels: (1) Input and Process, (2) Acquisition, (3) Application, (4) Organizational Output, and (5) Societal Outcomes. These training metrics span quantifiable findings, spanning from how effective the training materials were comprehended by the learners (Input and Process) to the effect the training had at the org level (Societal Outcomes).
- The Success Case Method: As an alternative to focusing on the success levels of certain training programs, this model gauges how well an organization influences training. It tries to study factors that are external to a training program, which might influence employee performance and business results.
- Context, Input, Process, and Product Evaluation Model (CIPP): The CIPP model evaluates (1) the impact of Context, Input, Process, and Product; (2) Sustainability; (3) Effectiveness; and (4) Transportability. This model is iterative and is applied throughout a training solution instead of after it.
- Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation: Kirkpatrick’s model is possibly the most universal model and is the starting point of various other models. Its taxonomy assesses (1) learner reaction, (2) knowledge retention, (3) behavior change, and (4) impact on the business.
What Tips Can Help You Demonstrate the Value of Training?
Below is a list of tips to help you demonstrate the value of training and development:
- First, avoid low-value metrics (for example: seat time, learning hours, courses completed). While they do have their place and indicate usage, they don’t go any further. Some Learning Management Systems (LMSs) have started to even use those metrics on the portal users see. They indicate whether training was used but not the value it may have brought to the organization.
- Instead, focus on high-value metrics, including employee engagement, compliance, performance, innovation, and revenue.
- When reporting to business leaders, avoid using L&D jargon. Many L&D departments are used to discussing “level one results” or “level three impact.” That means nothing to business leaders though, so instead use terminology they understand, such as “reaction survey results” and “performance change.”
- Use only objectively measurable statistics to demonstrate the value of training. Most business leaders would like to avoid subjective measurements as evidence of the training’s value and impact.
Training is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle of effective businesses. While the value is implied, measuring and demonstrating the value of training will increase the quality of training in any organization.
Want to learn how to measure and maximize the business impact of your corporate training programs?
Download our eBook, “Cracking the Code – How to Measure and Maximize the Business Impact of Your Corporate Training Programs” for insights and a set of practical cues that can be used to measure and maximize the impact of your employee training programs.
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