Measuring the Right Metrics to Prove Training’s Impact

Jul 10, 2023

During the 1980s and ‘90s, training departments at most corporations published tables and graphs that displayed training days, batch occupancy and trainer utilization as key metrics to indicate how well the department was doing. The mantra was: “Get them into the classroom and everything will be right with the world.”

When the millennium turned, someone wisely said that perhaps it was time to ask the learner what they felt about the whole experience. That introduced measurement and analytic methods to track the employee experience, like surveys and the Likert scale. Though useful in many cases, relying solely on the Likert scale to measure the impact of training can be ineffective — a 4.1 score on the Likert scale is celebrated while a score of 3.9 is frowned upon. That difference of 0.2 can be the difference between a phenomenally successful training program and one that was an abject failure. Really?

Then came net promoter scores (NPS) as a measure of training success, and once again, the industry went ballistic with this new way of figuring out how good their programs were. For example, if three out of five learners recommend this program to their colleagues, it was a success; if not, then it was a disaster. Since when did attending training programs get slotted into the same box as watching movies and eating at a restaurant?

Ineffective Measurement

But the biggest drawback (and there are several) of these measurements is that you cannot do anything with a number. Looking back at the example — is there a significant difference between 4.1 and 3.9? Is it important to know that 60% of people who attended this program will recommend their colleagues? No, it isn’t! There is no call to action. And more importantly, there is no attempt to measure something fundamental to corporate training: What difference has this made to the learner’s performance on the job?

Organizations shouldn’t invest in their employees only to improve the business’s brand and reputation. Instead, employers should invest in training to improve business performance, increase sales, reduce mistakes, improve productivity, increase customer satisfaction and so on. They should invest in training to make an impact on relevant metrics that are tied to both an individual’s and the business’s success. Those are the only outcomes that should matter.

No one cares about 4.1 and 60%, and action plans designed to create a 10% improvement in the numbers, for example. No one cares about learning objectives that read “at the end of this course you will be able to.” People care about what they can do at work after they attend this course. The next time you design or approve a training program, change the learning objectives. Make them more measurable and relevant to the employee experience. Ensure that these metrics are tied to business success and can prove the impact of training.

Here are some examples:

Text Narrative Chart

Like the old saying goes, “What you measure is what you will improve.” If learning leaders wish to prove training’s impact, they must measure individual employees’ performance, rather than rely solely on post-training surveys and questionnaires.

By Ganesh Krishnamurthy