Consequences of not effectively tracking your training
At its best, corporate training is a great way to build skills, morale, and loyalty in your workforce and position your organization to achieve its strategic goals.
At its worst, corporate training can be a minefield of wasted money and missed opportunity. Every organization has at least one war story about a training initiative that went wrong. When that happens, you’ll hear complaints like these:
- “Training is too expensive.” Yes, it costs money, whether you buy an off-the-shelf product, send people to a seminar, or just take an hour to introduce a new initiative.
- “Training is time-consuming and distracts from the real work.” Training does take people away from their daily tasks. And the more comprehensive the training, the longer it usually takes.
- “Training is too hard to measure.” It’s true, measuring the real results of training can be a challenge. Too often, people just rely on their gut reactions to tell them if their training initiative was worth the time, money, and effort. But tracking your training is an absolutely essential step in creating and delivering corporate learning that gets the results you want.
What do you need to track?
Concentrate on two areas when tracking your training:
- Training needs for individuals
- The effectiveness of the training itself
Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas.
Tracking individual training
The goal of this type of tracking is to answer several related questions:
- Who needs training?
- What specific type of training do they need?
- When/how can they receive this training?
- What was the result (completion, scores, etc.)?
- What is the next step in their training path?
A good learning management system (LMS) will help you gather the information you need to track individual training – but not without some effort on your part. Most LMSs track more data than you can possibly digest. It’s up to you to:
- Identify (or create) the reports you need.
- Review these reports regularly.
- Be prepared to act on the information in the reports.
What happens if you don’t do this type of tracking?
- People won’t get the training they need.
- They may feel frustrated or neglected.
- Mistakes and turnover may increase.
- Time and money spent on training is wasted.
Tracking your overall training program
At the macro level, you’ll need to look at training courses – or your training program as a whole – to see if you are achieving the results you want.
One of the most widely used models for measuring training effectiveness is the Kirkpatrick Model, developed in the 1950s and clarified later with the New World Model. Briefly, the model describes four levels of evaluation to consider before, during, and after conducting a training program:
- Reaction. Did participants find the training enjoyable and relevant to their jobs?
- Learning. Did participants learn what they were supposed to learn?
- Behavior. Do participants apply what they have learned when they return to their jobs?
- Results. Does the training achieve the desired results (such as higher sales, more customers, lower costs, etc.)?
One important thing to understand about this model is that each level builds on the one before it, so it’s crucial to track all four levels. This model is used as the basis for evaluating a training program’s Return on Expectations (ROE), which measures how well a program meets the expectations of its stakeholders.
Of course, it’s possible for a training program to deliver great results at all four levels of the Kirkpatrick Model, yet still not be worth the time and money you spend on it. Calculating the return on investment (ROI) of a training program can be complicated – there are books written about it – but many organizations require training departments to justify their budgets by demonstrating quantifiable results that improve the company’s bottom line.
What happens if you skip the tracking?
There’s really no excuse for not tracking individual training results. After all, the LMS gathers the data and produces the reports. The hard part is using that information to create a comprehensive plan for training individuals, then making sure the plan is followed.
Tracking results of a wider training program is more difficult. It can be hard to justify spending time and money to gather data and collate results after the training program is over. In many cases, training departments just ask participants to fill out evaluations at the end of the course (often referred to as “smile sheets”) and call it a day.
The result? You’ll get training programs learners enjoy, but you just won’t know whether they learned skills they can apply to their jobs, and whether the training achieved the desired results for the company.
Tracking isn’t a “nice-to-have” add-on that may happen at the end of training, if you have the time and money. It’s an essential part of the cycle of training and development, and continuous improvement. Make tracking an essential part of your training plan from day one.
Blake Beus is a Director of Learning Solutions with extensive experience in healthcare and financial services. What Blake enjoys most about his role at AllenComm is helping organizations implement initiatives that have a real impact on the business.