Measuring training effectiveness: methods that improve your ROI
Training happens everywhere. It is the major segment of any organization. The following numbers are enough to indicate the importance of training and how essential it is for most organizations: “According to the 2016 – ATD – State of the industry report, corporations spend around $1252/year (on average) per employee in terms of training and development. That is, an average employee receives around 33.5 hours of training each year”.
But there is a need to shift the focus away from ‘how much’ to ‘how well’. Companies need to be more focused on measuring the effectiveness of the training program. So how effective is your implemented learning program? Are your employees actually learning anything? Does the performance of employees is improving or there is no change? All of these are the fundamental questions to ascertain the effectiveness of your learning program.
Need to Measure the Effectiveness of a Training Program
Organizations develop training programs and implement them for employees as a response to their problems in terms of performance, poor work quality and motivation. Businesses develop these goals for the training and then measure the effectiveness of these training in meeting the requirements.
There are numerous methods to evaluate the training effectiveness. These methods ideally provide information as well as feedback about the adequacy of the implemented training program along with parts which are ineffective. This helps management in addressing shortcomings with more training programs, specifically designed for the gaps identified by the measurement tools.
While an organization cannot control its customers, it can control the influence created by its employees. Empowering, educating and engaging employees can be the foundation for the best customer experience. Such impact is not just limited to the employees but reach out to everyone who is a part of that organization and who interacts with your business.
How to Measure the Effectiveness of a Training Program?
Gone are the days when learning used to be measured on the basis of multiple-choice questions. Such kind of measurement is more focused on the retention (short-term) of knowledge in comparison to a more long-term ability to implement knowledge. Eventually, the corporate learning goal must not only get an investment return of training but also improve the learners’ skill set.
There is a need to know if all the efforts and commitment are leading to more positive ROI
There are various evaluation methods used. These methods help you ascertain the effectiveness and impact of the implemented training program. This is exactly what we will be discussing in this post.
We will get familiar with popular training evaluation models including Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training evaluation model – as it is now the industry standard for the evaluation of the training.
Methods to Measure the Effectiveness of a Training Program
Here are some proven methods to measure the effectiveness of a training program. These methods help organizations in measuring the results of the invested time, energy and resources in terms of training initiatives, meant to move the needle.
One of the best methods to measure the effectiveness of the training program is to know if trainees are capable to transfer their knowledge to others. The tendency to teach others is considered as the highest level of mastery of a subject. When learners transfer their learned knowledge, it put them in a position to apply their learned concepts in real life practices.
This helps in two ways:
- It improves engagement among employees as they continue to learn from each other
- It enables training managers to ascertain if the employees are applying the learned concepts accurately and correctly within the organization.
Knowledge Transfer will help in knowing if all the employees possess the right knowledge and skills to meet performance targets.
Assessment Before and After Training
This can also be called skill assessment. One way to go about it is to utilize visual confirmations to ascertain the set of skills of employees along with their performance, before and after the training program.
These skylines or snapshots of the ability of a learner can provide you with the clear picture of improvements that can be tied to training. To give you an example, if you are providing MS Excel training to your employees, measure their skills before the training and then retest their skills after the completion of training to see the delta.
There is so much that goes on during this period of before and after the training, it is imperative to use visual confirmations, assessing the set of skills of employees throughout the training period. This will help in establishing if the trainees have actually gained knowledge or skills from the training program.
Ranking employees or trainees after every training and on the basis of their mastery level of a given subject is highly important to measure training effectiveness.
Ranking brings a lot more benefits than just measuring training effectiveness. It let’s you assess if the employee has any improvements considering the last training session or not. It also motivates employees to get better with each training program. It helps employees to come together, both in competition and cooperation, as they battle positively and also encourage each other to achieve the best results.
Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model
The above mentioned are the proven methods to measure the training effectiveness. However, Kirkpatrick’s Training evaluation model is considered as the industry standard for the evaluation of the effectiveness of a training program.
The model was introduced by Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick. He was the professor at the University of Wisconsin and this model was the subject of his Ph.D. dissertation in the year 1954.
1st Level – Reaction
This level is about understanding the reaction of your learners towards the training. It is the foremost step to fully understand how well your training is received. What is the learners’ reaction to it and figure out the gaps that must be improved?
This is the foundation of any training program, thus, you might not get obvious or immediate insights in terms of ROI.
How to do it:
You can use the method of collecting questionnaires or by means of informal conversations among learners. Following are the basic topics that can be covered.
- If the course is useful and relevant
- If the training is enjoyable
- If the training fully accommodates the pace and learning style of learners
- If learners wish to recommend the training program to other peers as well.
This collected data will help you see a bigger picture. This will enable you to learn the behavior of learners. This level of evaluation will help you understand the required skills needed to make the most of the designed course material. Some of the tools to measure the level of learners’ satisfaction include feedback forms, smiley sheets, post-training surveys, verbal reaction or online evaluations. All you need to look for in this level is the positive reaction of people describing the training experience.
2nd Level – Learning
This level involves the measurement of skills and knowledge learners are supposed to gain from the training. For this measurement, you must plan a bit in advance like determining the course objectives.
The level must answer the questions like: what knowledge should your learners absorb from this training? What skills should they master? What is the level of advancement in terms of performance or change in the skill set of learners after the training?
Once you get the required metrics using different assessment methods, determine if the training has successfully met these objectives. Also, identify the areas that must be improved within the scope of delivery method and content.
How to do it:
An easy way to do it is by conducting post/pre-test or quizzes. The quiz can be conducted at the end of each training topic. This will help in verifying the know-how of learners in real time. The quiz can be in the form of a written quiz or it may be conducted as the on-the-job practical evaluation.
You may also use the LMS data to ascertain the rate of course completion and how long does it take for your learners to finish the course.
3rd Level – Behavior
This level is about evaluating the extent to which trainees have applied their learning or have improved their on-job behavior. Did the learning was put into effect by learners? What knowledge or relevant skills were used? Can a learner accurately transfer their learning to other peers or situations?
This is an extension of level 2, in which, you determine if the training created any impact on the attitude, behavior, and performance of learners’ at work.
How to do it:
This can be done by means of:
- Employee interviews
- Self-assessment questionnaires
- Supervisor feedback and report
- On job observation
- Peers’ informal feedback
- Customers’ feedback (complaints or comments)
However, make sure you have identified the basic clear criteria along with measurement standards.
4th Level – Results
In this level, the improved performance impact is measured by the organization, business, and environment.
Jeffrey Berk suggests: “The Kirkpatrick training evaluation model is great but if there is no process to gauge the levels it may not prove to be practical”.
Thus this level offers a practical way to measure the training ROI. It measures tangible results brought to your business by the training. Below are some key metrics you would want to consider:
- Improved productivity and work quality
- Best business results like retention, customer satisfaction, sales etc.
- Increased satisfaction, retention and employee engagement
- Reduced duration, production cost or error and rework
Remember if you follow this industry’s standard evaluation model, it should always start from level 1 and then move up consecutively, depending on the financial budget and time. The information you will collect from each level will act as a foundation for the next level. Thus every consecutive level offers more accurate measurement than the previous one, and for the same reason, requires more efforts and time for its execution.
The Final Words
Measuring the performance and effectiveness of a training program can be daunting at times. This is particularly true if you wish to get instant ROI. However, a good place to begin is to go with Kirkpatrick Model in addition to employee ranking, knowledge transfer, and assessment.
After all, people’s ability to understand new concepts or ideas greatly varies and there will be many factors that will affect how your learners will implement training in their own best interest.