For those companies that have their own training departments, how would you rate the effectiveness of your training initiatives? On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is exceptional and 1 is poor, how effective is your training in improving business results? Does your training result in increased sales, better customer service levels, and higher employee retention? Do you have a scorecard in place that measures key business performance areas that have improved as a result of your training? And now for the most important question, what is your training ROI? You certainly know how much training is costing your company in terms of training staff salaries, supplies and materials, and the time students are away from their jobs attending “another training program.” But how much more money is your company making or saving because of the training? In light of operating costs at an all-time high, unless training departments today can prove without a shadow of a doubt, their value to the company in terms of ROI, I’d be cautious of investing in training. Every function within your organization should be able to justify their budgets and mere existence, by clearly demonstrating the results they will deliver back to the company. CEO’s control the company checkbook. They deserve to know what they’re getting in return for the money they’re spending. Ideally, CEO’s should have a good idea what they’re going to get in return for their invest, before they write the check. Training related initiatives should be justified and rationalized by showing how they’re going to improve business results.
Companies don’t want training programs, they want improved business results. Training is one of many methods in which to improve business results. Training departments have done a poor job of demonstrating their impact on business results. CEO’s are crystal clear on how much training is costing their companies, but they’re not as clear, nor as demanding as they should be on ROI. Most training departments measure their effectiveness in terms of Level 1 and 2 evaluations: Reaction and Learning. Level 1 Reaction, is often referred to as the smile sheet. It surveys students with questions like: how did you like the training; was the room comfortable; was the instructor knowledgeable; do you feel confident you can apply what you learned today, etc. Level 2 Learning, is a test that is administered at the conclusion of the training to measure if the learning has transferred. Level 1 and 2 is important not by themselves, but by how they impact Levels 3 and 4: Behavior and Results. Level 3 and 4 is what’s important to CEO’s because it answers the all-important question, What am I getting for my money? If training departments want to continue to be funded, and for that matter, relevant, they must pick up their game by aggressively moving into Level 3 and 4 territory.
The real measure of training is what happens when the students leave the training environment and return to work. Did the training stick? The whole purpose of training is to instill new knowledge, skill sets and confidence in students that results in new behaviors that improve business results. Period!
A 2008 training industry study on training application reported the following findings:
ü Did not try new skills: 15%
ü Tried new skills and failed: 70%
ü Achieved sustained new behaviors 15%
Only 15% of students actually applied what they learned back on their jobs. This is why companies are so skeptical of investing in training, and they should be. Training personnel need to expand their focus and involvement beyond the learning environment by injecting their presence into the workplace, where their training is to be applied and ultimately judged. In my next column, Part II, I’ll discuss who is responsible for ensuring the training sticks. Hint – it’s not the training department!