Regular Training Metrics – Now with more Fiber!

Like fiber, training metrics may not always taste good, but they ARE good for you.  When working with business leaders – especially leaders in learning and development, I often encounter an attitude that lies somewhere between lethargy and paranoia toward training metrics.  These metrics are specific measurements that quantitatively describe the impact, effect, and outcome of a training activity, whether it’s a new job aid, a recent classroom experience, or an eLearning course.

From my discussions with learning and development leaders across a variety of industries, the main reasons for the reluctance to implementing metrics can be placed into three general categories:

  1. Training managers don’t know how to move from current “do our best” practices to a measurement supported, production-oriented environment. 
  2. It’s been their experience the metrics aren’t going to be used anyway and opt not to waste the effort.
  3. They’re afraid they won’t like what the “numbers” might show.  

Despite this aversion to measuring the actual impact of their organization – training metrics are here to stay.  Lest we forget, numbers are the language of management and that includes training managers. 

Key Competencies

To get started, let’s just focus on measures of training efficiency. (We’ll deal with training efficacy – often described by Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation – in another article.)  At minimum, training leaders should ask themselves – How much effort is being expended and for what result?  In other words, it’s about “input” (effort and resources to create and deliver training) and “output” (the results).  In the simplest of terms, productivity can be defined as: results as a function of effort.  Or, for those that like to do the math:

Results divided by Effort

In the training department, each of the following ratios yields an efficiency measure managers should be able to easily calculate:

Easy ratios for managers to monitor training

Each measurement tells a different story but both metrics together tell a more complete story.  Combining output and input measures into ratios yield metrics that are directly comparable across time periods and business units, and can be used as baselines and benchmarks for larger measurement initiatives – as well as future forecasting!

Okay, so what are you going to do with your new-found understanding of how to build measurements that describe your training productivity?  Simple:  Measure, Monitor, and Manage.  It’s the life blood of continuous improvement!  Start by selecting the key inputs/outputs for your training program(s) and activities, and begin measuring them.  Then, create baseline data and measure over a period of time.  By definition, you’ll be monitoring your initial training productivity metrics.  Finally, by using your metrics intelligently, you’ll find yourself managing what you are able to manage.  Not every aspect of your training department will be in your control.  That’s okay.  There are enough activities within your control for you to make a difference with your metrics.

So, eat fiber if you want to improve your health – but get to measuring if you want to enjoy the benefits of better training!  To learn more, give me a call at 901-850-8190 or drop me an email at jim.hartigan@orgwide.com 

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