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Published on Tuesday, May 14, 2019

How do you Know if Training is Working?

One of the most nebulous measurements is the effectiveness of training.  According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD) 2018 State of the Industry report on training, learning hours per employee was approximately 34.1 hours (slightly more than four eight-hour workdays) in 2017, which was the same as 2016. Between 2012 and 2016, this number increased steadily. The traditional instructor-led live classroom format accounted for more than half of all learning hours used at the average organization. However, the use of self-paced online learning, or e-learning, continued to students in class

What are the top training areas for most organizations? Most organizations emphasize the following training areas: managerial and supervisory, mandatory and compliance, and processes, procedures, and business practices.  On average, employers spent $1,296 in 2017 for direct learning per employee.  According to ATD, direct learning expenditure can be divided into three categories: internal services, external (outsourced) services, and tuition reimbursement. Internal services include in-house development, delivery and administration expenses, and staff salaries. In 2017, nearly two-thirds (65%) of direct learning expenditure was directed toward internal services; just over a quarter (26%) went to external services. Only 8% went to tuition reimbursement.

Interesting enough, according to another survey, 80% of all employers offer tuition reimbursement, but only approximately 5% of employees utilize it.

The cost of training has increased from past years.  The average cost per learning hour available across all organizations was $1,896 in 2017, which is higher than previous years. According to ATD, new content, or content recently adapted for a new delivery method, often carries a high cost per hour available because of up-front development expenditures and frequent updates to existing content may also put upward pressure on the cost per hour available.

Although online training seems to be a rage, the study shows that the traditional, instructor-led face-to-face classroom was the delivery mechanism for the majority of learning hours used in 2017 (54%),  which is slightly higher than those seen in 2014-2016, but lower than those seen in 2013 and earlier.

E-learning or self-paced online delivery accounted for 23.3% of hours used in 2017, up from 22.2% in 2016 and 18.9% in 2015. By contrast, only 12% of hours used in 2010 were delivered via e-learning.  Will training for the new generations entering the workforce be more effective with online versus traditional classroom?  That still remains to be seen.  Unfortunately, today’s work environment has too many distractions still for online learners.

So how do employers measure effectiveness of training?  With lots of assumptions and much difficulty.  The classic Kirkpatrick Model to evaluate training is widely used.  The model consists of four specific areas:

  • Reaction. Were workers actively engaged and participating in the program? Observation and reaction surveys can help with this metric.
  • Actual learning. Did they come away from the session knowing more than they went in knowing? Baseline quizzes before and after give a snapshot of whether or not the session met objectives.
  • Behavioral change. Are you seeing a change in the way people perform their work? If training isn't directly relatable and usable, this might be more difficult to quantify.
  • Results. What is the final impact on the business overall following the training? Have errors decreased? Has productivity increased? Is customer satisfaction up? These measurements may take longer to quantify, but they're worthwhile metrics to obtain.

Yet this approach is a subjective measure of change.  Either the training had impact or not.  And further the behavioral changes directed by the training may be short-lived. 


Additional ASE Resources
Leadership Academy - ASE’s Leadership Academy series, an onsite program, focuses specifically on ROI.  The training, though similar modules to many leadership development series, requires the executive team to determine the outcome of training.  Participants work in teams to meet those expectations.  For example, the executives may have a goal of process reductions or cost improvements.  Theses outcomes from the Leadership Academy are measurable and visible.  In addition, the learning doesn’t stop once the first round of leadership training ends; there is a six-month follow-up to determine the success rate of behavior change.  Instead of having subject measures of success, the Leadership Academy has objective and generally quantifiable measures of success.  For more information on the Leadership Academy, please contact Tony Kaylin.

Talent Development – ASE offers over 100 unique talent development courses throughout the year.  To view upcoming courses, click here


Sources:  ATD 2018 State of the Industry report, HR Dive 5/7/19

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