If you put a handful of training leaders in a room and asked them how many times during their tenure their training budget has been cut or threatened to be cut, I’d venture to guess that the majority would respond “plenty!” Why is this? Quite often, those executives that fund training budgets are eager to see the connection between investing in learning (including learning technologies) and business value. Simply developing and delivering employee training programs is not enough anymore. Training leaders need to demonstrate value and measure business impact to show that their training results are successfully contributing to business operations.
Measuring business impact is one level of evaluation found in the Kirkpatrick Model; one of the most well-known frameworks for evaluating training, coined by Donald Kirkpatrick. In the “results” level of evaluation, the results that occur because participants attended a training program are measured. These training results constitute business impact. Results can be measured in terms of competitiveness such as productivity, performance, quality, and efficiency, or alternatively, indirect benefits can be measured such as improved teamwork, employee satisfaction and improved service for example.
Demonstrating the value of your training program contributes to the growth of your business and future investments in training; however, many companies haven’t figured out the best way to measure business impact, or they don’t have the time to invest in such a large scale effort. Measuring business impact requires customized analysis of business needs to identify appropriate measures. There is no standard set of measures that can be used across industries; however, there is a standardized process that any business can use to measure the business impact of employee training programs.
The process to identify employee training business impact includes the following 4 steps:
Problem Identification/Training Requirements
What’s the problem you’ve identified to be improved by employee training? The goal of this first step is get a good understanding of the problem and training expectations. It’s important during this first step to include leaders directly impacted by your initiative to identify their needs and challenges to better define the problem. As you get a better understanding of the problem, you’ll want to develop measurable business objectives and training plans to address them. Define target audience, type of training offered, learning objectives, duration of training, format, etc.
Define Business Impact Indicators
What changes do you expect to see as a result of this training initiative and how will you know that they’ve taken place? During this step you’ll need to work with staff to determine what business impact indicators you’ll be monitoring, then show how you will observe and measure change. For example, a hospital has seen a recent increase in incident reports for patient falls on a particular floor. In an effort to reduce the number of occurrences, the hospital plans to conduct Fall Prevention Training. What results (business impact indicator) would they expect to see? A reduction in patient falls would be the most likely indicator. How will the hospital observe and measure the change? They will monitor incoming incident reports.
During this step, you’ll need to determine how you will gather data to document the changes that have taken place as a result of your training. Following our example, after establishing your baseline patient fall figures, you could choose to collect all fall-related incident reports for a specified time period. You’ll also need to record and analyze this data to determine the actual business impact. Did it meet or exceed expectations? Did it fall short, if so, then why? Was it the number of people trained, the way in which the training was delivered? After reading assessments or reviewing test results, perhaps the training content could have been more thorough. A word of caution, you’ll always want to involve the key leaders/staff members during your analysis to determine if there were other factors that may have affected your results – whether good or bad.
Share Your Results
Once you’ve gathered and analyzed your date, you’ll want to present your results to the appropriate stakeholders. You’ll want to provide context for your findings that supports the importance of your messaging. When presenting your results, at a minimum, you’ll want to include what your training project set out to achieve, the process you used to gather, record and analyze your results. Then you can share whether or not the project met your initial goals and what the impact is to your business.
Measuring business impact addresses an often missing link that justifies many employee training initiatives. Dedicating the time, effort and resources to business impact measurement may in fact contribute to more thoughtful consideration and contributions to your training efforts.
About the Author: Susan Distasio is an eLearning Industry Crusader focused on advocating for advancement and change in the eLearning and professional development industry. An avid seeker of knowledge and continuous improvement, Susan is happy to share her research, observations, and thoughts regarding “all things related to learning and development.” When she’s not out on the learning crusade, Susan can be found with the wind in her hair riding her Harley or simply enjoying life with her husband, Steve, and her Siamese cat, Elvis, and with family and friends.