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Measuring Training Impact: A Case Study
Submitted by Leslie Allan on May 13th, 2011
In my previous post on training evaluation methods, I talked about when it is and is not appropriate to try to isolate the impact of training on a business outcome, such as an increase in sales. For some programs, it is inherently more difficult to isolate the impact of the program. Take anti-bullying programs as an example. You would not establish a control group that would be denied the training just so that you could compare results with a test group undergoing the training. Such an approach would be unethical, to say the least.
It is with this kind of case that it may be best to use the trend line method for measuring business benefits. With this method, you would plot the number of lawsuits months or years before the training started and compare the trend with the plot after the training completed. For this method, you would need to hold other influencing variables constant. For example, the trend line method would not be suitable if government legislation changed around the time of the training. This method also presumes that the training started at some point in the organization’s history. If the anti-bullying training program had been running since day one, then this method will not be suitable.
The second point about the trend line method is that you need enough data for the conclusion to be statistically valid. If the company only receives one lawsuit every ten years, then the results will get lost in the noise. In this case, you could measure a leading indicator instead. Number of lawsuits received is a lagging indicator. By the time the company receives a lawsuit, it’s too late to prevent it. However, there are leading indicators that point to the factors that contribute to or lead to a lawsuit.
These factors may include the number of employee complaints, sick leave days, etc. You could then plot these values on a trend line. If you can then equate these values with the number of lawsuits received (for example, from benchmarking studies), then you may be able to calculate a Return on Investment (ROI) value for avoided lawsuits. Alternatively, you can use an indicator, such as the number of sick leave days taken, as a lagging indicator. Using sick days as a lagging indicator, you could simply cost the money saved from reduced sick leave days. That would be your calculated business benefit from the training program.
As this case study demonstrates, there are many ways to skin a cat and each organization and training program is different. The trick is to see what historical records exist, determine what it is you want the training program to achieve and then exercise some creative thinking. Whatever you do, remember to keep your creative thinking within the bounds of what is methodologically valid.
My popular Training Evaluation Toolkit provides a complete step-by-step guide and resource kit for helping you evaluate the effectiveness of your training programs. With this toolkit, you will be able to plan your evaluation exercise, collect all relevant data, isolate non-training factors and then analyze and report the results convincingly to your key stakeholders. The toolkit is packaged with a full set of reusable and customizable Microsoft Word forms and Excel calculation worksheets for all of your measurement and reporting needs. Find out more about our Training Evaluation Toolkit and download the free introductory chapter today.