As a Learning & Development (L&D) professional, you know that corporate training is valuable to your organization. After all, talent matters more than ever, and L&D programs are critical to building a skilled workforce.
The good news is that your top leaders also agree. In fact, a 2014 PwC study found that 64% of CEOs consider building a skilled workforce a top priority. And in most organizations, this commitment has been reflected in the expansion of training budgets over time.
However, larger budgets also bring increased scrutiny, and corporate leaders are demanding to know what they’re getting out of their training investment. In the same PwC study, 77% of L&D heads reported more pressure from their organizations to demonstrate the tangible business impact of training.
This is a challenge for many L&D departments, since evaluating training ROI is not always straightforward. As a result, corporate training evaluation has historically been focused on activities, asking questions such as:
- How many people completed the course?
- How many man hours were spent in training?
- What was the cost to the organization?
With the rising importance of training today, this is no longer enough. Executives are recognizing the value of making the right investments in their people, and are demanding proof of concrete business results. In order to do this, L&D professionals will need to demonstrate clear growth in trainee skill sets, linked to actual improvements in job performance.
Here are four ideas to help you get beyond activity-based data, and start measuring the impact of training on the bottom line.
1. Define the Purpose of Corporate Training and Link to Business Outcomes
One of the biggest reasons why training ROI is so hard to measure is that most training programs treat it as an afterthought.
Before you design your next course, take some time to clearly consider your training goals, and how they will help you reach specific business objectives. By first defining what you’re trying to achieve with the training, you will be able to maximize the business value of your program, while ensuring the collection of the appropriate metrics.
For instance, if you’re designing a sales training program, your objective might be to help your salespeople close more inbound leads per week. Establishing this as your goal will help you avoid unrelated content, such as cold calling or customer support techniques.
2. Establish Baseline Data Before Training Begins
In order to evaluate improvement, you first have to determine the baseline of skill that your trainees already possess.
This data can be easily obtained through a pre-course survey, or directly sourced from the relevant departments. In the sales training example, we might want to determine:
- Number of leads closed per week
- Percentage of leads closed
- Average number of days from initial contact to close
- Number of “touches” from initial contact to close
In addition, it is often also helpful to collect qualitative data from the participants themselves. Research clearly shows that training is most effective when the learners feel involved in the process. So make sure to ask them questions about their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as their expectations of the course.
Some example questions may include:
- What is the single biggest challenge you face in closing inbound leads?
- What skills and resources would you need to close 30 additional leads per week?
- When you think of your most successful selling days, what made the critical difference?
- What type of knowledge would you most like to learn from this course?
Not only will this information give you additional data points to demonstrate trainee progress, it will also help you tailor your program to the unique needs of the participants.
3. Focus On Actions, Not Words
When it comes to measuring real-time trainee progress and course engagement, behavioural data is king.
While surveys have their place, they tend to be less effective during the actual training, since it is often difficult for participants to assess their own growth as they are experiencing it.
Instead, instructors should focus on what their trainees are actually doing, not just what they’re saying. This means monitoring metrics like:
- Quiz Results
- Assignment & Activity Completion Rates
- Forum Participation
Benchmarking this data across the duration of the program will serve as a useful barometer of trainee progress. You will be able to show how participants improved specific skillsets at each stage of the course, and identify promising opportunities for future training.
Additionally, this data can also alert instructors when intervention is required. For instance, if certain trainees are lagging behind others in completing assignments, or consistently scoring poorly on quizzes, they might require further help with the material. Supporting trainees in a timely manner is key to making your course a success.
4. Follow Up With Post-Training Evaluations and Measurements Using your LMS
Ultimately, in order for training to deliver ROI, it has to lead to behavioural changes on the job.
Your LMS Reporting should allow you to schedule a follow-up survey to be sent to trainees a set time after the end of the program. Ask them specific questions about how they have managed to implement their new skills in their daily work.
In the sales example, we could ask:
- How many leads are you currently closing per week?
- Which stage of the sales cycle has the training helped you with the most?
- When you started the course, you mentioned that X was your biggest sales challenge. Have you managed to improve in this area?
Your post-course survey should include a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions.
On the one hand, you definitely want “hard” numbers to present to your business leaders, so as to prove concrete improvements in job performance. These should ideally be linked to high-level business metrics, such as increased sales, reduced costs, or higher customer satisfaction.
On the other hand, be sure not to neglect qualitative data either. Learning is fundamentally a holistic process, and asking trainees about their own direct experiences with the course can often yield useful insights.
A Revolution in Evaluation
Implementing these ideas will help you measure your training investments on the bottom line, not just activities.
The fact is, with the wealth of learning analytics data available to us today through the LMS, we have reached a tipping point in training evaluation.
L&D professionals who are able to prove that corporate training provides great business value will have a significant advantage. They will be able to show executives that training should not be viewed as just another line item, but should be seen as an integral part of the organization’s success.
Want more insight? Let our team of LMS experts show you how Zoola Analytics, a LMS reporting platform, delivers learning insight faster and easier than ever before through meaningful visualizations and stunning reports, and prove the impact and ROI of your learning. Get in touch with us today!