Are you spending millions on training without knowing its true effect?

2019.10.16 Fenix Bretz
Is your training a waste?

I’ve seen a few requests for proposal of training and development programmes during my days. I’ve even written a few of them myself. There’s a few different sections and usually one of them concerns how a supplier guarantees and follows up on quality. Most consultancies and external educators will write something about a standard, perhaps ISO-14001, and that they follow up by asking for the participants’ feedback and take action if there’s anything critical. That's a very poor way of proving the effectiveness of your training. Take a look on this article instead, describing four simple steps to evaluate training effectiveness.

Around 90-95% of the organizations we speak with evaluate the reaction of the learners (i.e. Kirkpatrick's level 1) after a training. There is however a problem with only evaluating participants’ subjective feedback, namely that more than 80 percent of those who are satisfied with a particular training use very little of what was being learned. Satisfaction is in other words not a good indicator of the ROI of training. So, you need another way of evaluating training effectiveness to make sure it's not just waste.

training effectiveness

The actual cost of training and development

If you purchase training for 200 employees, it could be a short, two-day programme on Sales Fundamentals, or a more technical training to skill up the entire service team on how to do maintenance on the new X320 bread toaster-model. The content doesn’t matter, but let us use the two-day instructor-led training as an example in this scenario. The direct cost of the training will probably be around 500-1,000 EUR per employee depending on if you’re using an external venue etc. The indirect cost (e.g. travelling, accommodation, per diem etc.) is also likely to be around 500-1,000 EUR per employee. Then there’s the alternative cost – the cost of having people away from work. That’s a minimum of 500 EUR for a two-day training. So, just to make sure we’re not exaggerating: All in all, the cost of the programme with its 200 employees sums up to at least 300,000 EUR, probably more. Your CEO and the management team, however, probably expect 2-4 times that money in return.

Now let me ask you this: How much are you spending on evaluating the effectiveness of your training? If your answer is "not much" or "nothing" then you should continue reading and perhaps you could also download our tool for doing a business case for measuring learning impact.

Are you measuring training effectiveness and learning impact the right way?

Now, your answer might be that you evaluate business results by looking at KPI’s before and after a learning intervention. For example that you look for increases in level of engagement levels or sales revenue, or decreases in number of accidents or employee turnover. Around 10-20% of those we speak with are evaluating training effectiveness on Kirkpatricks level 4 - e.g. comparing KPI’s before and after a training and translating the results into money with the assumption that the training led to the results. But can you for sure say that a change in the KPI’s is a result of the training? No! Unless you also measured the training on Kirkpatricks level 2 and level 3 - i.e. whether the participants learnt anything, are using what they learnt and that the training drives behavioural development, you can’t. 

Determine training effect

The most important is of course that those KPI’s are pointing in the right direction after a learning intervention. I don’t blame you for being happy if they do. But in order to determine whether that’s thanks to your 300,000 EUR investment in training and development, you have to look at whether the learning is transferred to the job and if behaviour has changed as an effect of the training. Doing that, you will get a whole other view of the quality of the training and its ROI. Only then can a conclusion that a change in KPI’s is a result of the training be more trustworthy.

Some organizations are spending, not 300,000, but millions EUR on training and development every year. Worldwide, 140 billion EUR was spent on training and development last year* and it’s increasing every year. At the same time, studies indicate that more than half, even as much as two thirds of what’s learned during a training is never used on the job. Is that representable among the programmes you're responsible for as well?

Related posts:


Global human capital trends 2017, Bersin by Deloitte

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Kristoffer Laag
HR Strategist