Measuring the Impact of Your Learning Program
Say you're in charge of developing training for your organization. Your three person team has been tasked with ensuring all of your organization's 1,000+ employees not only stay compliant with government regulations but also regularly upgrade their skills, whether through on-the-job training or online learning. It can feel like a huge task just to stay on top of providing engaging training when and where your learners need it. And the result? It can be easy to forget about the reason for the whole endeavour - what impact is your training actually having?
This article will look at why it is so important to measure the impact of your training, and explain how you can do this without having to grow another set of hands.
Why Measure the Impact of Your Training?
Well, that answer might seem obvious - you want to see if your training program works, right? This means going beyond looking at metrics like completion rates and taking a hard look at the results of your training. Determining if your training is working for your organization will, first and foremost, allow you to focus your priorities, and ensure you're getting the most bang for your buck, scrapping things that aren't working and refocusing on initiatives that are.
But there are some less-obvious benefits that come with taking a closer look at what impact your training program is having, such as:
- You will be ensuring your workforce is more engaged in their training. Everyone likes to know that their voice is heard. Asking for feedback on your learning program allows you to not only fix aspects of your training that aren't working, but also give your learners more ownership over their learning. Engaged learners also come back for more training, which fosters a continuous learning mindset in your organization. Research shows that this type of culture leads to increased productivity and higher retention rates, among many other advantages.
- You will get more buy-in from decision-makers. Training for training's sake is great, but, by and large, management is most interested in the bottom line. When you can start to quantify a return on investment, whether in tangible items like sales, or soft targets like employee satisfaction, you will find that it gets easier and easier to get approval for future initiatives.
- You will get more ownership from your team. Developing training is hard, especially the first time as you don't know how people will react to it. At the end of the day everyone will have an opinion, but by gathering this feedback and listening to employees/stakeholders, they will feel more involved in the processes and invested in your program, and seeing the difference their work is actually making, can energize and focus training developers to bring their best to the program.
How Can You Measure the Impact of Your Training?
Convinced that measuring the impact of your training is the way to go, even if it does mean extra work? Great! Let's take a closer look at how you can do this (and maybe it won't be as hard as you think after all).
To really measure the impact your training is having, you need to look at the needs assessment you completed before you started the development process. (And if right now you're thinking to yourself "what's a needs assessment?" well, let's just say a comprehensive needs assessment is your best friend in the training world. Our article How to Conduct a Training Needs Analysis is a great place to start.)
A needs assessment is the foundation of your training program; it lays out the roadmap of what you hope to achieve and also gives you a metric against which you can measure whatever you determine success means for your organization. Most importantly, your needs assessment will identify performance and/or knowledge gaps. Your training should be developed to fill these gaps, and then your evaluation will assess how well the training accomplished this goal.
Having said that, while a needs assessment is important and can be a key tool in your arsenal, you can still measure the impact of your training even if you haven't conducted a one.
Only you can determine the best way to evaluate your training program's impact - training isn't a one size fits all proposition, and neither is your assessment. Use a combination of:
- Skills assessments
- Written evaluations
- Social feedback forums
- Lunch and learns
Gather feedback from all levels of your organization, and remember, everything can be measured, even those soft skills we mentioned earlier (our Measuring Training Effectiveness eBook provides valuable tips on how to perform both quantitative and qualitative analyses). The work you put into developing the right assessment for you will absolutely pay dividends once you get the formula right.
If you're the type of person who likes a more structured approach, consider the Kirkpatrick Model, which consists of four levels of evaluation: reaction, learning, behaviour and results.
Source: adapted from learning.likedin.com
For more information on this model, check out our article on measuring the performance of training programs using the Kirkpatrick Model.
As you get more accustomed to measuring your training's impact, however you do it, the better you get at it. Soon, you will find yourself developing training you know will have the impact you are looking for (though you will still follow up just to make sure!), meaning that not only are you creating training that is maximally effective, but spending less time doing it!
Training is a huge investment, not only for your organization, but also for learners, trainers and developers. Measuring the impact of this training will benefit all, both in obvious ways and ways that perhaps aren't so clear at first. We've looked at why measuring the impact of your training is so important, and how you can start this process. Start today and see the positives it can bring to all levels of your organization.
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.