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Practice makes perfect sense for training ROI

22nd Apr 2015
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John Edmonds knows where the value in evaluation is. Read in for more.

Training is more likely to be successful, and provide a return on investment, the more delegates are able to practise techniques and exercises specific to their role. The content of any workshop or training programme needs to be practical, rich with content and the majority of time spent on individual and group work, making it a deeply practical experience. 

But quality training is not only key to achieving ROI on spend, it can also prevent any unpleasant surprises when it comes to monitoring and measuring its effectiveness after the event. If training is practical and tailored to each specific purpose, it will already be ahead of the game when it comes to measuring effectiveness. And to be absolutely sure that a business is spending its resources wisely, measuring and reporting the value gained must be an integral part of the whole process. 

There are a number of approaches which look to measure and report the value gained from training by gauging the reactions of participants. One of the most simple and popular is the well-known Kirkpatrick/Phillips model, which helps to objectively analyse the impact and effectiveness of training with a view to improving it in the future. 

As well as achieving ROI, this particular evaluation model can determine whether a training programme meets its objectives. It can uncover any strengths or weaknesses and ultimately help towards making a decision about establishing priorities and training investment.

Reaction

You can start by establishing to what degree participants react favourably to the training. In the past this has typically been limited to the initial reactions of the delegates in terms of content/timing/style/room/food. This is all very interesting but is likely to be of little long-term value (albeit that the learning environment is known to be a factor in how we learn).

So how can you help people bridge the gap between the learning event and longer term change? Well, you could start with reviewing how well the trainees feel that they engaged with the learning during the event. It can also be valuable to ask the facilitators for their feedback, with a view to enabling ongoing improvement and helping to plan how to use new knowledge and skills back in the workplace. 

Learning

Learning objectives are often categorised as KSA – Knowledge, Skills, Attitudes. These are, of course, all very relevant, but to a certain extent they are external requirements. If you also add an emphasis on confidence and commitment, you are more likely to get ownership from delegates.

We often encounter delegates on learning events who clearly possess knowledge and/or skills, but lack the sense of confidence, the 'I CAN do it for real.' Part of the role of the training facilitator is to manage the emotional state of participants in order to generate confidence, after which commitment will follow.

Behaviour

Behaviour is all about seeing the ideas, skills and knowledge gained in the learning event transferred to the workplace. Many training objectives emphasise this, but what is often missing is the work environment that will support, encourage, recognise and reward such behaviour. 

It is disappointing to hear of cases where delegates will be returning to a work environment that is positively structured against such behaviour, “you may have learned that on the course, but it’s not the way things are done around here...”

If changed behaviour is required, an organisation needs to provide the structure to reinforce it.

Business impact and results

We're looking for outcomes - the result of change, something that normally affects real world behaviour or circumstances. A learning event in itself is simply an output, so something more is needed. Therefore, to what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event are of key importance. The problem is that this can take quite some time to achieve.

Long-term learning objectives need to be established at the outset, so they can be effectively used as the foundation for measuring success and value for money. The training itself needs to be carefully thought through, aligned to your business strategy and really linked in with business requirements if you are successfully to achieve ROI and positive feedback.

It can also be effective to build in some short-term observations and measurements to track and monitor that critical behaviours are on track to create a positive impact on the business and yield the desired results. In the final analysis, this means that an organisation needs to plan and prepare, and not simply ‘send someone on a training course'.

John Edmonds is an experienced project and programme manager and is director of strategy and marketing and head of training at L&D company pearcemayfield

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