Abstract theories and vague innovations never had much of a shelf life in business. Sure, the business press peddled a lot of them over the years (new theories of management, economic paradigms, ways of dealing with HR, etc.), and businesses would adopt one now and then, but in the end, only those that actually proved themselves in the market survived.
Because running a business is all about the bottom line — and anything that doesn’t have a measurable positive impact on that, will, sooner or later, get scrapped.
Employee training and development is no different in this regard. Sure, every organization needs to have capable employees. But is it really beneficial for a company to run its own training program, instead of only hiring people already skilled in the desired tasks, or delegating that to some third party? Does it make sense to invest in an online training platform, as opposed to traditional learning processes? And, finally, how does one begin to evaluate the real impact of a company’s employee training program?
Fortunately, having worked with thousands of companies, helping them train hundreds of thousands of employees all around the globe and assisting them in evaluating their training programs, we have some answers to these questions. And we’re going to get through them in this very post.
Evaluating your employee training program: Different kinds of impact
Before measuring anything, we need to understand what it is we want to measure.
Not just to be able to reach for the right tools (e.g. you wouldn’t measure length with a thermometer), but also to appreciate and comprehend the different ways in which something like employee training can impact our business.
And, when it comes to employee training, there are indeed more than one things to measure.
We could, for example, measure how effective it has been in increasing our employees’ knowledge and skills. Or we could measure how much more efficient our business workflows and processes have become, as a result of our training. Or we could try to measure the cultural impact, within the company, of things like ethical responsibility and racial sensitivity training. And, last but definitely not least, we could measure for any positive impact of our training program to the company’s bottom line — which is, in all probability, the main thing we want out of it.
What we’re suggesting, though, is that you should measure all of these things — and a few more which we’ll discuss later in this post. That’s because all of these things, in one way or another, contribute to the success (or failure) of an organization. And besides, they’re not as independent as they might appear in the first place.
New skills / Knowledge
It goes without saying that a training program should be, first and foremost, efficient in training people. That is, it should help them understand and absorb your training material and gain new knowledge and skills.
In fact, if we were talking about training in general education that (knowledge, that is) would be the one and only thing that mattered. But, of course, in business, there are other considerations too.
Fortunately, measuring training effectiveness, namely the contribution of a training program to the learners’ knowledge, is exactly what LMS platforms are great at. That’s what quizzes, tests and the like are about, and an LMS platform like TalentLMS will give you all the tools you need to create them, manage them, deliver them to your learners, grade them and in general evaluate learner performance through them.
And even if the material involves some practical skills or a physical demonstration of some newly acquired dexterity, it’s easy to leverage TalentLMS’ blended learning support to schedule some classroom or teleconference-based sessions to assess them.
The second thing you’d want to measure is any improvements in your company’s operational efficiency, workflows and such.
Here, the built-in LMS tools won’t be of much assistance. You will need to go out and pay attention to what employees do, and how they go about in their day-to-day activities, from working on the assembly line to dealing with customers, study all available employee performance metrics, and try to find quantitative or qualitative differences compared to what was the case before the training program.
Of course, this means that you’ll need to also pay attention to any workflows you want to improve through training before the training program begins so that you have a baseline to compare to.
Watch for particular practices, techniques and tips that were included in your courses, and see whether your employees are taking advantage of them — and also how many of them do so.
This isn’t strictly a numbers game either — observing that e.g. 80% of the workers have adopted this technique from their training, but only 20% have adopted this other technique is just the first step.
You’ll also need to try and understand why this is the case, and what could be done to increase adoption or even whether anything should be done at all — perhaps some technique wasn’t adopted because it proved to be impractical or flawed in actual use, in which case you should remove it from your training material. Sometimes, asking your employee directly (e.g. through a training evaluation questionnaire) will give you surprisingly good insight on such issues.
Besides workflows, another obvious way to check for differences in efficiency is by comparing the before and after of various operational metrics. That could be, for example, products assembled per hour (for a factory), successfully concluded calls (for a support center), etc. Again, to evaluate the impact of your employee training program, you will need to have a baseline to compare the post-training situation to the previous ones, so try to get a sense of those things before you start your training.
This might not be obvious to check for at all, but if you’re doing any onboarding, ethics training, cultural sensitivity training and such, to your new hires (or even existing employees), you’ll probably want to know about its effectiveness too.
Good results here won’t show up as improved production metrics, but you can still gauge them by contrasting things like HR complaints (for harassment, etc) before and after, directly asking (e.g. through a TalentLMS survey) minority employees of any changes they’ve witnessed, and other relevant questions.
In general, assessing improvements from training in the company’s culture and employee-to-employee interactions takes more effort and requires a more qualitative approach than measuring other effects of online training.
Speaking of qualitative results, employee happiness is another big thing you should definitely check for, before and after your training program.
Employees value learning new things, especially when it comes with improved career opportunities within the company, and it also gives them a reassurance that your organization believes and invests in them and their further training.
This can help reduce employee churn, which is a real problem for most companies, especially ones operating in the so-called Knowledge Economy.
Again, tools like TalentLMS’ Surveys can help you get an overview of your employees’ sentiments towards their training program, but also their work in general.
Last, but certainly not least, is the economic impact of your training program.
Of course, when it comes to an online training program, there will usually be considerable cost-savings compared to traditional classroom-based training. These can be quite hefty for larger companies, with lots of employees and many facilities (or extended enterprise partners), but we’re not going to focus on those here. After all, those are very simple to calculate.
The real economic impact of your training will be the changes your company sees in its revenue because of it.
Unfortunately, this is very hard to measure, since there are numerous factors that you need to eliminate to get an accurate picture (perhaps any uptick or downtick in revenue was due to the overall market, or because of some coincidental large orders, etc — as opposed to being directly caused by more knowledgeable employees).
Still, you could get a decent approximation of this, by checking the effect on your revenue of things like the workflow and productivity improvements we mentioned earlier on. A faster order processing pipeline or a quick product turnaround time, for example, can be directly translated to increased revenue.
Other training-related changes might affect a different part of the logistics of your production, resulting in increased efficiencies, etc.
Once you’ve identified a quantifiable change, it’s usually quite easy to translate it into changes in revenue. Adding all of these up, and compensating for seasonal fluctuations and market factors, will give you a rough idea of the impact of your training program in your company’s bottom line.
Your training program will have an impact on your company and the way it does business in several ways.
Some, like its impact on your employee’s skills and knowledge, can be easily measured and monitored through the built-in tools a platform like TalentLMS offers. In the general case though, evaluating employee training programs is a complex process, half-art, half-science.
To fully understand and evaluate the effectiveness of your employee training program, both in scope and in magnitude, you need to study how it affects all other aspects of your operation, from improved workflows and company culture down to reduced employee churn and increased profits.