Training programs play a vital role in developing talent, engaging employees, and ensuring compliance. Yet it’s just as important to ensure you measure training effectiveness properly – or you could be wasting time and money.
When employers invest in building their workforce’s skills, they need to know that learning outcomes have been achieved and that employee performance is improving as a result. In some cases, you may even need teams to gain specific certifications to show that they’ve developed the necessary expertise.
So, how can leaders evaluate their training programs and measure learning effectiveness? This guide explores the steps involved in the process and looks at some training effectiveness evaluation methods. It also outlines the key learning and development KPIs that you should be measuring.
There are four main reasons why you should consider evaluating your employee training programs:
Recent learning and development research shows that training improves engagement, increases employee retention, and empowers teams to perform at their best. And beyond all of this, program managers need to show that employees are actually achieving the desired learning outcomes and putting their new skills into practice. Measuring training effectiveness gives the data to prove that a training program is delivering on its promises.
If training program evaluation highlights areas where there is room for improvement, then it has also achieved one of its main goals: the measurement of learning effectiveness should also help identify and address gaps in the approach. It’s important not just to assess a program against learning and development KPIs, but also to adapt it accordingly.
As well as enhancing existing programs, training evaluation can also highlight areas where employees are currently struggling and determine what comes next – for example, if test scores on one module were poor, this subject may require an additional training program of its own. In this way, measuring training effectiveness can facilitate a more data-driven approach.
4. Measuring the ROI and impact on business goals
Training programs should deliver a measurable return on investment and have a clear impact on business goals. But how can you show this without an evaluation process to determine how employee performance is affected? Understanding the ROI of your learning and development isn’t just critical within your organization – this is data that investors and external stakeholders will want to know about too.
Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model
Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model is a framework that’s used by many organizations worldwide to measure training effectiveness. Although the ins and outs of this model alone are enough for a much longer guide, let’s briefly take a look at the four levels involved:
|Level 1: Reaction||The first level is about identifying how employees reacted or responded to the training itself. Useful tools for establishing this include one-on-one evaluations and surveys.|
|Level 2: Learning||The next step is to ensure that the desired learning outcomes have been achieved. Here, organizations need a way to test what employees actually learned from the training sessions (online assessment platforms can help with this).|
|Level 3: Behavior||Kirkpatrick’s third level is behavior. Once employers have identified that workers have acquired the right skills or knowledge, it’s vital to observe whether they then put it into practice. Are teams starting to apply what they’ve learned in their daily work? Observational assessments are a good measurement of this.|
|Level 4: Results||Learning and development should result in employees being more productive and engaged, but employers need to measure this to demonstrate training effectiveness. Tracking results in terms of changes in performance metrics ultimately enables leaders to calculate the return on investment from training programs.|
We don’t need to cover Kirkpatrick’s model in any further detail here, but it’s worth knowing that the process for evaluating training programs outlined below is based on these four levels.
When measuring training effectiveness, it’s important to have access to the right tools and a clear procedure to follow. Building on Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model, this section outlines a six-step process for evaluating your training program.
Before beginning, plan out the training sessions, the first step is to establish learning outcomes. At this stage employers need to pinpoint the precise skills or knowledge that you want their employees to gain from the program.
For example, do they need to complete a specific type of task or understand a set of compliance regulations in the industry? Whatever the learning outcomes are, ensure that they are written down to act as a point of reference going forward.
Once the teams have been through a learning and development program, assess how they’ve responded at the earliest possible opportunity. Managers might get some sense of employees’ initial reactions to the training on an informal basis, but it’s a good idea to back this up with some further investigation.
Have the trainees complete a survey asking questions like:
- Which parts of the training did you find most valuable?
- Were there any topics covered that you felt required more detail?
- Would you recommend the training program to colleagues?
- If you were to run the training yourself, what improvements would you make?
In addition to the survey, line managers can conduct individual evaluations with the trainees. Some employees will be more willing to open up about their responses to training activities in a one-on-one setting.
Having gauged how your trainees have reacted to the program, the next step is to measure how well they’ve picked up the desired skills or knowledge. Remember the learning outcomes you established earlier? There needs to be a quantitative method of evaluating whether these have been achieved (such as a test or assessment).
An online assessment platform like Questionmark offers an easy and convenient way to test learning outcomes. All program managers have to do is create an assessment in a format of their choosing and invite the trainees to take it. They’ll then receive the results automatically once they’re in – and there’s even the option to include online proctoring to prevent cheating.
Achieving the right learning outcomes isn’t enough on its own. True training effectiveness is about testing whether employees can put their newfound knowledge into action.
Have teams been trained in how to approach a particular task? Ask their line managers to observe how well they’re managing to complete this duty in their daily work. Similarly, if the training program focused on compliance requirements in the workplace, see how employees respond when presented with relevant regulatory challenges.
As your trainees start to enact the new behaviors they’ve learned, employers should see this translating into improvements in performance and productivity. The way in which they quantify this will vary from business to business depending on the industry and the type of tasks employees are expected to complete – for example, they could be looking at metrics like the number of sales closed or client satisfaction scores.
To take this one step further, they can then calculate how the learning and development initiatives have contributed to increases in profitability and show the return on investment. Take the following scenario:
|“In the three months following the completion of the program, the sales team that undertook the training sold an additional $200,000 of contracts compared to the previous period. The teams that did not take part in the training only increased sales by an average of $50,000 quarter over quarter. |
“The trained sales team saw a comparative uplift in revenue of $150,000, generating the company an additional net profit of $50,000 when all expenses had been accounted for. In total, the training cost the business $25,000. The ROI of the training program was therefore 200%.”
ROI = (Net Return on Investment / Cost of Investment) x 100
($50,000 / $25,000) x 100 = 200%
Although we can only infer correlation (not causation) from this data, it would likely provide enough evidence to warrant the training program being rolled out to other teams across the sales department.
The final step in evaluating a training program is to adapt your approach based on what you find.
During the survey and employee evaluation phase, trainers might discover that many of the trainees felt that a particular topic wasn’t covered in enough detail. Course leaders could then make changes during the next training cycle to ensure this is explained more thoroughly going forward.
Alternatively, insights may come from analyzing the assessment results. For example, the scores might show that certain elements of the training weren’t fully understood by the trainees. This could open up a conversation around how best to teach employees about those subjects and what could be improved.
In some cases, employees might be more than capable of answering the assessment questions, but still struggle when it comes to applying the training to their own work. A scenario like this might call for a slightly different approach. Consider making the training more practical and hands-on, with trainees applying their learning to real situations they’d encounter in the workplace.
Ultimately, measuring and improving training effectiveness is an iterative process. Learning and development initiatives can only develop if you can take on feedback and pay attention to the data you see at each stage of the training evaluation cycle.
As employers adapt their approach, they need a clear set of learning and development KPIs in place to help you measure training effectiveness and track the impact of any changes they make to the programs. These KPIs should help you to answer the following questions:
- Are employees achieving learning outcomes?
- Are the knowledge and skills from training being applied to work?
- What impact is the training program having on business goals?
Here, we’ll explore a few different learning and development KPIs that your organization could use.
It’s a great idea to carry out assessments soon after the training has taken place to test whether the learning outcomes have been achieved. After this point, it’s also useful to re-assess employees on the same topics to ensure that they’re retaining the skills and knowledge.
The initial assessment results provide a KPI to measure initial training effectiveness. Employers can then re-assess employees three to six months down the line and take the difference between the first and second scores as a secondary KPI. This gives you a clear picture of how well knowledge is being retained.
Based on this data, employers might find that you need to introduce short refresher sessions on certain topics after the training program has taken place.
The post-training surveys should include questions that allow leaders to gauge how satisfied employees are with the program. For example, ask trainees to rate how likely they are to recommend the training course to a friend or colleague on a scale of 1-10.
By observing changes in these scores, organizations can work out if any changes made to the training are resulting in improved satisfaction and engagement with the program.
Is the training transferring into improved performance?
All types of learning and development should help employees to get better at some aspect of their roles. It could be that you’re aiming to increase productivity for a certain type of task, boost sales in a particular area, or reduce the number of compliance risks that the business encounters – whatever the end-goal of your training program, measure changes in performance over time to track the impact.
Whichever performance metrics you set as learning and development KPIs, compare how well the trained teams perform against the rest of the organization. This will help you to isolate the effects of your training program and demonstrate its true value.
This guide has explained how to measure the effectiveness of training initiatives. Along the way, we’ve looked at why you might want to evaluate training programs, a six-step process for doing so, and some of the main learning and development KPIs to track.
Interested to learn more about how the platform works in practice? Read our AstraZeneca case study to discover how this pharmaceutical multinational evaluated its training program with Questionmark.