Practical ways to maximize and measure your training investments

by 11 Jul 2012


Many companies struggle to ensure training investments are effective. It’s no secret that having opportunities for development is a key contributor to employee engagement; and organisations consistently need to do everything we can to foster it and encourage high performance. With tight budgets and higher employee expectations, it's more important than ever to make sure you're getting a return on your training investments. Here are a few practical ways to maximize and measure your training investments.

Maximize: Does training have context? Does it fit employees?

Often what we do in our work doesn’t have a context. We have responsibilities and goals, and even competencies that are specific to our role or identified as core to the organisation, but we don't understand how any of them contribute to the organisation's success.

It's the same with development activities. Many employees don't really understand how the training they're signed up for relates back to their performance or their job. As a result, they go through the motions of taking the training without really being engaged or accountable for the results.

Organisations can change this scenario by providing context to the learning and training employees undertake. You should link or tie all assigned training activities to the employee's performance of a specific goal or competency, either to address a performance gap, or to expand their knowledge/skill/experience so they can accomplish their goals.

Providing this context helps to ensure employees understand why they are assigned a particular learning activity, how it should impact their performance, and why it's important to the organisation; this drives up the value of these learning activities while increasing employee engagement and commitment to their growth and development.

Measure: Does training improve on-the-job performance?

We've traditionally measured the effectiveness of training with pre- and post-testing. Many organisations also look to "training satisfaction" surveys that ask the employee if they believe they'll be able to apply the things they’ve learned to their job. While these tests and surveys can certainly give us an indication of what an employee has absorbed and retained from training, they don't really tell us if the training has impacted their performance – and that's really what we're after: improved on-the-job performance.

To gauge this impact, So what if you looked at and compare performance review ratings before and after training and look for improvements. If you've tied the employee's development activities to the performance of a specific competency or goal, you should expect to see a correlative improvement in performance review scores. That would be a far better measure of training effectiveness. And ideally, you would look at performance review score improvements not just for one employee, but for all employees who completeda particular course or training activity.

When it comes right down to it, that's the true measure of the value of your training – did it improve employee performance and in so doing support improve corporate performance.


About the author

Sean Conrad is a senior analyst with talent management vendor Halogen Software


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