Monday, February 22, 2010

Measuring Organizational Effects of Training

Organizations do not implement training initiatives without expectations. However, these expectations differ from one organization to the next. For each company, there is a key question: “Why did the company consider the training program?” There are many answers to this question and each answer can validate the training investment:

  • Training is needed to satisfy ISO audits.
  • Training is needed to get new jobs completed.
  • Training is expected by employees.

None of these answers are incorrect, but ultimately training needs to have a positive effect on the organization as a whole. These organizational effects produced by training ultimately determine if the training is worth the effort.

The Training Effect

When a training program is initiated at a company, a great deal of effort must be exerted to make everything run smoothly. There are many areas that must be addressed before the training begins, such as marketing the training internally, making employees aware of training benefits and constructing a training launch plan. Once all these activities are completed, the training can be launched successfully. A training program that is properly launched and that is adopted by the company will cause many changes within the organization. The changes happen at all points during the training program’s cycle. But a question remains – when should these organizational effects caused by training be measured and reported?

The question of when to measure and report is extremely important for organizations who initiate training programs. Most companies assume that the ideal moment to capture results occurs at the completion of the training program. This would be a mistake! In any company, many elements contribute to overall success. Such obvious items are marketing of products, pricing discounts and focused resources on a certain aspect of business. These all have an effect on the potential success of an organization, and leaders of marketing and sales will certainly and rightfully take credit for these positive effects, even if it is not due to them. This taking credit for contributions to success is where some people who lead training programs in organizations fail. Does training have an effect on employees and company success? Absolutely!! But often the effect that training has is captured and reported too late.

The Beginning or the End?

A properly targeted and launched training program has profound, positive effects on a company. These positive effects occur throughout the program, not just at the program’s end. The ideal training plan includes reporting on the training impact on the business. This reporting is best scheduled throughout the training process, and the impact of training should be communicated to all levels of the business.

Since communicating the effects of training on the business requires talking to different levels, the message must be tailored to each level. Even though terms like “enrollments” and “completions” are important to the HR and Training divisions, they are not necessarily important to C-Level executives who are controlling the budget, or to business-line executives who care more about what their employees thought about the training. To have these conversations, you need to know your audience. For business-line executives, you should address consumption, attendance and satisfaction. For the C-Level executive, you need to trace everything back to the “big three”: profitability, productivity and revenue growth.

When you start a training program, in order for it to be successful, there are many areas that need to be considered. There are obvious areas such as who will be trained and what topics will be covered and also not so obvious such as how to communicate the impact that training is having on the organization. Although this step is difficult to deliver upon, it is crucial to the success of not only the current training effort but any future training endeavors.

Director of Services