Prove training works

Nora Akins

Training Magazine, the Association for Talent Development and many others have conducted studies to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of training. As a result, we learned instructor-led classroom training is the most used and is the second most effective method despite all the advancements in training technology and the use of social media. Coaching and mentoring are the most effective methods of training. Two lessons learned; it takes people to effectively train people and face-to-face is best.

The General Counsel Roundtable found each dollar spent on compliance saves on average $5.21 in avoidance of legal liabilities, harm to the company’s reputation and lost productivity. The ROI of effective compliance training is outstanding and perhaps easier to measure than management development unless the instructional designer uses Design Thinking.

Design Thinking was first conceived by Peter Rowe in the mid-1980s. Basically, if you want specific results, you design for those results. Design Thinking can be used for a number of purposes; training is one. Typical measures of success for training include the number of participants; whether the participants completed the course; whether they enjoyed it; and whether the content is actionable.

Using Design Thinking the instruction is designed to make a positive impact on the organization; designed with a business need as the focus. All stakeholders are involved in determining the specific business need and measure. There may be a number of ways to measure the improvement of a business need. The measure and the program’s content must be aligned.

People who are managing the participants are instrumental in strengthening that connection before, during and after the training. Objectives are set up to measure changes in behavior and performance pushing accountability to make the desired business impact. Action plans can be used to guide the participants to apply what is being learned. Barriers must be identified and minimized to drive results.

To establish the ROI of soft skills, the results must be measureable and credible. To do this, isolate the effects of the training on the impact data. Next, convert the data to money. Finally compare the monetary gain to the cost of the training. This provides the business impact directly related to the training and the financial ROI.

Using the business need to retain top performers as an example: Steps may include identifying those current performers and those identified as lost top performers in a specific previous period of time; and identifying behaviors of their managers that will increase their likelihood of staying. Design training to increase those management behaviors. Establish a method to measure those behaviors. Measure cost of replacing each top performer; compare the turnover prior to and post training. Finally, compare reduced turnover cost with training cost. Going through this process not only proves whether training worked, it provides the groundwork to design the training and a training program that can be tweaked to optimize results in the future.

Nora T. Akins of Strategic Management provides management training and refines human resource systems to help employers build respectful workplaces. Reach Nora at 219 873-1735 or

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