So often training departments are either deemed as ineffective or their effectiveness is completely unknown because of lack of measurement. Training isn’t as simple to measure as other functions such as sales where leads and bottom line sales can easily determine the success of a strategy.

A common complaint we hear is about managers who approve training with no thought of what success looks like, how it will happen or what success actually means to them.

Therefore companies should always have solid figures that they can use to measure the effectiveness of their training activities. We think there are 5 broad categories which you can use to judge and compare the success of your training department. They are:

  1. Training spend
  2. Training recipients
  3. Time spent training
  4. L&D Staff
  5. Training Evaluation & Feedback

Training Spend

Break down the spend into meaningful categories including but not limited to categories like:

  • Internal courses
  • External courses
  • Travel & accommodation
  • Training materials
  • Technology e.g. pcs, apps, tablets

These can all be totalled and viewed as a sum that can be compared with competitors and similarly sized companies to see the size and activity of your department.

Training Recipients

Understand who from your employees have undergone training.  So you might want to consider categories such as:

  • Training category e.g. Management,  Sales
  • Staff level e.g. senior management, middle management, frontline staff
  • Departmental spend

These are very important as often amount of money spent doesn’t translate to hours of learning per employee.

Time spent training

This is the total amount of hours spent each year on training by employees in your organisation.  It is useful to know the combined figure however you need to dig a bit deeper so you know how much time, what topics, who received the training. Senior managers and board level tend to be interested in this figure and the total cost so if you can break it down even more it looks impressive. 

L&D Staff

An often overlooked figure.  This is focused on the number of all employees that are responsible for organising and delivering training. This will likely include L&D managers, administrative support, coaches, and instructors. This is sometimes difficult to measure as HR managers for example are often responsible for a number of tasks outside of training. In these examples it is best to work out roughly what percentage of their time is concerned with the training tasks and use that to work out therefore how much of their salary is dedicated to training.  You need to know these figures and relate back to business metrics such as employee headcount, financial data.  Knowing this means you will be able to calculate numbers and costs for when the company either increases or decreases in size.

Training Evaluation & Feedback

How can you ensure that the training organised is having a positive impact and is therefore worth investing in?   All L&D professionals should be able to provide this information as this supports everything they do. Directors will often talk about Return on Investment (ROI) however you also need to consider Return on Expectations (ROE) i.e. what did the manager expect to happen as a result of the training.  This line of thought is not limited to training and should be encouraged within the business.  Some measures will be quantitative such as course scores and some should be qualitative such as comments made.

These 5 metrics can then be used to work out numerous other important figures – average amount of hours of training per employee, average spend per employee, number of training staff per employee amongst others are useful data to know.

This data is pivotal for any organisation to know as it can be used to benchmark against other companies to see how effective trainers you are.  You can compare against older figures to see what impact a new strategy has had, analyse if raising expenditure has an effect on the other metrics and lots of other analysis.

If you don’t currently collate this information then you need to start doing this.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, a simple excel spreadsheet can be the starting point to record all the information to then analyse it.   Or if you work with external suppliers such as ourselves then ask them to produce reports on a regular basis.  Why not approach L&D staff from other companies you know or even rival companies, this happens more than you think.

The approach each company will take should depend on a number of factors specific so the main message is make sure you are doing some form of measuring.

Have we missed any?   Do you have practical experiences you can share?  Please comment and let us know.

Blake Henegan and Scott Drayton – Optimus Sourcing.  

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  • Mike

    You've added some wise comments in your piece.   

    We mentioned "courses" as training in this format is the most visible and per head potentially the most expensive in terms of actual cost and time away from desk.  (Aware that external coaching can be higher but this is less common).  

    The above is only the tip of the iceberg in what the good L&D or even L&P managers need to focus on.  I'd even go so far as to say ignore the metrics if you are able to get the management within the company to provide meaningful support and guidance to help support effective Need Analysis.  

  • Interesting post and one I've read a few times before posting and enjoyed thinking about. Appreciate the focus is on metrics and these are broad categories but there are a few things in here worth drawing attention to that I think will add to the conversation.

    From a personal perspective, I think there is a need to move away from Learning & Development to something more akin to Learning & Performance. We are unfortunately known for being wooly because training impact is hard to measure. We need to get away from this idea that our sole currency is training and the dreaded course in isolation is our only way and means of measuring effectiveness and value. It's interesting the title is around Learning & Development management but then focuses on training and metrics associated with training and courses. It's what we're known for but this is what needs to change in my opinion to shift the way L&D teams operate and are viewed within organisations. Training is visible and easy to record yes but I'd question if this is a true reflection of effectiveness.

    I don't disagree with anything you've put here but it needs to be more than this and being devil's advocate (and a board member) I would challenge the metrics and say "so what?".

    "So what you've delivered X-number of courses and delivered X-number of training man hours. So what? It sounds like you're trying to justify your existence to me and whilst this provides me with some numbers what difference has it made? All you're showing me is that you can manage a budget and use excel to record facts and figures."

    A common complaint we hear is about managers who approve training with no thought of what success looks like, how it will happen or what success actually means to them.

    This is the issue we need to solve isn't it. You can record all the data you've described above but if the training being delivered is irrelevant to the organisational/individual needs then big deal.  The data is flawed and somewhat pointless. These are the 'managers' we need to get rid of as they do L&D more harm than good in so many organisations.

    Instead we need L&D managers who work collaboratively across the business and help challenge & question any training need that might be identified and pro-actively solve business problems:

    • What's the performance issue we're trying to improve?
    • How does this align to our business objectives? (if it doesn't it doesn't happen)
    • Is training the most effective approach - why? Effective LNA is required
    • How will this impact/change performance?
    • Who needs to support this change (not just L&D)?
    • What will success look like?
    • How will we measure this?

    You've started alluding to this in the evaluation and feedback section but I think this should be the first point. L&D strategy needs to be directly aligned to business objectives and resources allocated according to what matters most supporting improvements in performance across the business. Understanding what success looks like and having a clear understanding of what is required comes before any sort of measurement.

    I'd be interested in hearing in how you ensure the data that is on offer is meaningful and relevant to the organisation, especially faced with those managers who approve training without the thought and attention it requires?

    How do you handle these situations when working as an external supplier?

    If you're a L&D manager what are your thoughts on demonstrating effectiveness?

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