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Measuring Benefit of Employee Development Program

Submitted by  on January 14th, 2012

Percentage graph constructed from blue blocksI see a lot of people struggling with how to measure the effectiveness of their training programs. And, of course, there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer as every training program is different. A question that was put to me recently was whether measuring the level of employee retention is a relevant measure of usefulness. To put the question another way, “Is measuring the proportion of employees that stay on with my employer an indicator of the worth of my training program?” This question is usually posed about developmental type programs; that is, programs for which the employer is not expecting to see an immediate boost in work performance.

My first response to this kind of question is that we need to be careful as there are many causes of people staying in their job, other than the developmental program they attended recently. These other influences include factors both external to the organization, such as the current demand for work in the region, and internal factors, such as salary level and group camaraderie. To use this kind of measure effectively, then, you will need to put serious thought into how you will separate out these other non-training influences.

A second aspect you will need to consider is whether you are retaining the right kind of people. The people who are leaving may be the most talented, looking for greener pastures in which to apply their new skills. You may be enticing the people who are the least likely to add value to your organization to stay. So, my advice here is that if you are going to use level of retention as a measuring stick, then only measure the retention of your high performers and those with the most potential.

Think also about whether this should be your primary measure. What, fundamentally, do you want from your programs? If it is to retain employees, then there are other more cost-effective means of getting your people to stay. You may want to improve productivity or efficiency or customer value as your primary goal. In that case, measuring retention may be a worthwhile secondary measure.

Training programs should be primarily targeting improved business results in the longer term. For help with identifying business benefits, I’ve been advocating the Kirkpatrick Four Level model for many years. Looking at the developmental aspects of employee programs, these in particular should be helping your people apply for and win internal promotions or coveted side-ways moves that benefit their career choices. Perhaps measuring the incidence of these moves may be more relevant to measuring retention alone.

In summary, consider what it is you really want to achieve with your development type programs -in concrete terms that will benefit your business. Supplement these measures with one or two specific development type measures that I’ve mentioned here and you are well on your way to rolling out meaningful and useful measures.

Training Evaluation Toolkit

Do you need to measure the effectiveness of your training programs and report the results in financial or non-financial terms? Check out Leslie’s comprehensive Training Evaluation Toolkit. Whether you are a novice or experienced professional, this guide and toolkit will walk you through planning your evaluation exercise, collecting all relevant data, isolating non-training factors and then analyzing and reporting 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 Leslie’s Training Evaluation Toolkit and download the free introductory chapter today.

Posted in Training | Comments (5)

5 Responses to “Measuring Benefit of Employee Development Program”

  1. Karen Carleton Says:

    This post makes an excellent point. Why focus on retaining people that are not adding value – focus on the higher performers and “Hi-Pos”. Lots of people simply stay for: their mortgage, they can’t find anything else, it’s easier, or they like routine and their co-workers. Investments in employee development should improve performance and therefore add to the bottom-line AND employee engagement/retention.

  2. Leslie Allan Says:

    Thanks Karen,

    You’re right. A good employee development program will achieve a win-win -a win for the organization and a win for the employee. Programs that try to aim for one only will generally miss the mark and not be as effective. We do need to be more nuanced in how we devise our measures and avoid simple, one-dimensional answers.

    Kind Regards, Leslie Allan

  3. Karen Says:

    One further thought, I’ve just put together a proposal to evaluate a leadership development program. A partner created curriculum and it’s an AI-based, systemic focused program with group mentorship by recognized community leaders in a the municipality. Retention and advancement is a key measure for them since our local labour market is booming and the private sector pays much higher. They’ve captured mostly anecdotal data.

    Any advice on what specifics they should be looking into in terms of measurable performance differences? (All participants are screened, approved, mentored.)

  4. Leslie Allan Says:

    Hi Karen. You ask a great question. I think the evaluation specifics need to be derived from the objectives and content of the program. Each leadership program is different and will target different outcomes. Let me illustrate with just one example.

    One objective of the program may be that participants will more constructively engage stakeholders in change. This objective may be supported by case studies, a video, online peer discussion and other things during the course of the program.

    So far so good. For the evaluation exercise, the program designers need to ask what does “constructive engagement” look like. How can it be “operationally defined”? (to use a quality management term). I suggest these operational definitions need to be done at the program design stage for best effect.

    For this organization and for this program, “constructive engagement” may mean:

    -development of a stakeholder matrix and communication plan prior to change implementation
    -face-to-face meetings with each key stakeholder before and during the change
    -score of at least “4″ for “engagement” question on post-implementation survey

    Notice how the first two are “leading” factors whilst the third is a “lagging” factor. It may be a good idea to involve a mix of leading and lagging factors as the former focus on the required behaviors whilst the latter demonstrate the outcomes.

    The next question then is, How do you measure how well these aspects have been satisfied by each participant? The lagging factor is already well-specified. For the former two, what are the hallmarks of an effective matrix and plan and how should you rate face-to-face meetings? These are the details that need to be fleshed out for each program.

    Keep in mind also that you can’t develop five indicators for each of the 10 objectives of the program. That would result in 50 measures, which would be costly and unwieldy to manage. Pick the five or 10 key indicators and make sure they are quality indicators that mean what they say.

    Karen, I wish you well with your evaluation exercise. I’m sure you will achieve success.

    Kind Regards, Leslie Allan

  5. Darshan Says:

    Great article. To me it highlights the fact that businesses usually work in a dynamic environment. There are both internal and external factors that influence businesses. These factors need to be taken into account for measuring benifit of training programmes. Ignoring these factors result in measurement results based on assumptions.

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