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Using a KPI to get the managers to protect the training investment

The biggest driver of them all to get success, change and impact in your organization out of a training event is to have your participant and their manager do pre-training preparation and post-training follow-up. As described in research by Robert O. Brinkerhoff (Telling Training’s Story, 2006):

Low focus on pre and post training activities

When the focus is on the design and development of the training itself the success rate of the training is around 15%.

High focus on pre and post training activities

When the focus shifts from putting all (most) resources on the training event to being on what happens before and after the training, something interesting happens:

  • The “Did not even try the new skills” is decreased by 67%
  • The “Tried but failed” is decreased by 86%
  • The “Achieved new behaviors” is increased by a whopping 567%

Again, there’s no other way to make training this much more impactful than having the participants prepared and followed-up. So, wouldn’t it be great if we could have a key performance indicator on this “mother of all” required drivers? Just an easy KPI to be used as a leading indicator that we’re turning this big barge of over-trusting the training event’s impact towards more lucrative waters? Of course it would!

It’s all about creating a KPI that measures the managers’ ability to leverage the training investment. To make it intentionally obscure we could even name the KPI “Investment leveraging”. By removing the word “training” from the name we focus on the finance side of things and not on the training and this is what I see as key:

This is NOT about training – it’s about money.

If a manager doesn’t see this financially impacting activity as an investment worth preparing and following-up on – why would he/she really treat other financially impacting activities otherwise? This is what the KPI should measure – to what degree the manager protects the companies investments. Maybe that’s an even better name for the KPI? “Investment protection ability”.

All good and well but how does this KPI work?

This all sounds good and well but the problem with good KPIs like this is that they aren’t that easy to measure and keep a track of. That is, they usually aren’t easy to measure – but this one is!

Chemistry Teacher with Students in Class

When the class starts there usually is a short rollcall to see who’s there or not, add the question to be answered by all of the participants: “Did you and your manager go through the goals of this training before you came here?” If yes, you could either let it slide or ask “In what way?” to go deeper. If no, you go directly to: “Did your manager book a follow-up meeting or stated the interest in one for when you’re back?” To get this down on paper I suggest you add a column to your participant list used in the rollcall anyways to just note the Yes and/or No. You could of course just add it to your classic smile sheet as well...

The two yeses are worth 1/3 and 2/3 respectively (based on the impact described earlier) and the KPI’s top score would therefore be 1 or 100%. Collect and combine into an average based on the participants company and you’ll get the KPI for that manager at this particular time.

Great and easy KPI – now what?

What do you do with this list of company average KPIs? Again, the reason to add it as a company-wide KPI is that it shows the managers’ will to protect their investments so I suggest you get your CEO to use it with the already existing ones and that it’s shown company-wide to get it to work as an organizational driver of change. Thus it becomes both a target to meet and a driver to get it done.


P.S. The concepts of Leading Indicators and Required Drivers come from the New World Kirkpatrick Model. You know, the Four Levels. Didn't know they included these concepts? You're knowledge of the Kirkpatrick's model is probably more than 10 year old then and I suggest you visit their site!

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