Is Your Training Actually Working?

Jill W.

ABC Recycling deals with the collection, sorting, baling and sales of recycled materials, and all of that activity involves the use of dangerous equipment. ABC believes in safety first and puts every employee through an extensive online safety training program that focusses on the safe operation of each piece of equipment. But a recent safety audit has pointed out that, while equipment-related incidents have not increased over the past two years, they haven't decreased either. This has left management wondering if their training program is working and, if it isn't, what needs to be done so that it is.

ABC is a fictional company, but their questions about their training program are not. Organizations across the board ask similar questions every year. So, how do you determine if your training is actually working? In this article, I'll discuss some of the ways that you can assess the effectiveness of your learning, the types of information you need to do so and how to get it.

Assessing Training Effectiveness

The phrases "training effectiveness assessment" and "return on investment" are often uttered in the same breath. But they mean two very different things. We've already published an article on measuring the ROI of informal training, so let's concentrate on assessing training effectiveness.

I think the first place to start when figuring out if training is working is to ask these basic questions:

1. Are employees using what they've learned on the job?

Let's go back to ABC Recycling for a moment. The training supervisor knows that the training for truck drivers instructs that all personnel should be clear of the dumpster before the truck forks are inserted into the slots on the sides. Yet, every day, he sees employees holding dumpsters steady to keep them in place while the forks are being inserted into the slots. Are the employees using the training? No!

One way to check to see if employees are "practicing what you preach" is to watch and see if they are using what they have learned in training. Have their behaviours changed? Are they performing tasks as they've been shown? Are they doing it with ease or do they need help with the task? Has their performance improved?

The key here is to observe how things are being done BEFORE training and comparing that to AFTER training performance. What you discover will truly reveal if your training is really working as it should.

2. Are you reaching your goals?

Training is always done with a goal, or goals, in mind. While the training may be about teaching a new skill or process, there are usually other goals that the training is meant to help achieve. Fewer accidents, improved product quality, increased production, adherence to a new policy - these are just a few of the goals that training also helps organizations reach. Reports on learners' progress, behavioral observations, production statistics, safety records, customer feedback, etc. are all great ways to gather information on how training is contributing to goal fulfillment, but it's a time-consuming exercise.

3. How do the learners feel about the training?

A hallmark of a product's success is customer satisfaction. So why shouldn't learner satisfaction be considered in measuring the effectiveness of training? Satisfied learners will put what they've learned into practice and will encourage others to participate in the training. They may even participate in social learning and teach other employees what they've learned.

Learner feedback surveys, learner interviews, focus groups and reports generated by your trainers are all great resources for finding out what worked for your learners and, just as important, what didn't. Using this feedback to respond to the learner's needs and to improve the content will allow help your training program evolve into one in which learners will want to participate.

Getting All the Information You Need

So far, we've been talking about getting information regarding your training from people. But what about your Learning Management System? What should your LMS be telling you about your training program's effectiveness?

A good LMS generates reports. A good LMS generates detailed reports that you can use to determine what's working and what's not. A great LMS allows you to customize those reports. Here are some examples of the types of information your LMS should provide:

  • Learner progress: Reports on learner progress through each course and each learning item within that course. This allows you to see how much time learners are taking to complete learning items, assessments, quizzes, review items, tests and courses. If many learners are taking more time than they should to complete an item, perhaps the problem is with the content or with learning item length. Reports should be available for individual learners and for groups of learners.
  • Assessment reports: Your LMS should provide:
    • Individual and group learner completion reports for all quizzes, exams and exercises
    • Completion statistics for each quiz or exam including:
      • Time taken by learner to complete exam - short completion times may point to a need for a more difficult exam or more questions; longer-than-average completion times may help single out poorly worded questions
      • % of correct and incorrect responses per question - this could indicate that the question is too easy or too difficult
      • Certification statistics - indicates the number of learners who have earned certificates for completion of training
      • Number of badges earned - if you are using gamification, your LMS should be able to track badges earned by learners and tell you how quickly they were earned
      • Completion of individualized learning paths - this report could be used to sort out any learning content that may be too difficult for learners.
      • Re-certification statistics - some types of training require that learners recertify according to set time requirements.
  • Download statistics: This data could be used to determine the learners' preference for a particular type of content delivery (e.g. video, microlearning).
  • Individual learner statistics: These can be used to help recognize highly successful learners and identify learners in need of help.


Answering the question "Is your training actually working?" is not a simple yes or no proposition. To create a training program that actually works, you need to not only create engaging and informative courseware, you need to ensure you have an LMS that allows you to see what's happening both during and after training.There are a number of variables at play and determining how effective your training is means assembling and analyzing the data from personal observations and surveys to the reports your LMS generates.

Remember, the better the data, the better your opportunity to make the right improvements that will make your training actually work.

This paper would discuss the need for training professionals to assess the effective of their training. They spend a great deal of time and money creating and delivering courses, but they may not have the tools they require to measure who is taking advantage of the training and whether they are actually absorbing the material.

This information is necessary to assess the return on the investment in training. It can tell training professionals what's working, what's not, and give them critical information to help them make improvements.

In some cases, effective reporting is also required to prove that everyone in the organization required to complete a particular course, in safety training for example, actually completed it.

The paper will point to reporting capabilities that training should consider with evaluating LMSs.

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Jill W.

Jill is an Instructional Designer at BaseCorp Learning Systems with more than 10 years of experience researching, writing and designing effective learning materials. She is fascinated by the English language and enjoys the challenge of adapting her work for different audiences. After work, Jill continues to leverage her professional experience as she works toward the development of a training program for her cats. So far, success has not been apparent.