How Effective Is Your Training System?



In today's rapidly changing social and business environment, training and developing employees is a key lever in moving organizations forward. However, many organizations have failed to capitalise on the benefits of learning. This is not from want of investing in training courses, as the training business is a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet, in all too many cases, organizations continue to reap little benefit from their training budgets.

Organizations failing to achieve real returns from their training investments typically keep no training records or record activity and expenditure haphazardly. Training in these organizations is often the result of glossy training brochures arriving at someone's desk or as knee-jerk reactions to workplace incidents. Where there is a real performance problem, in many cases, no or a half-hearted attempt is made to determine if training is the appropriate solution. Once trainees return to the workplace, little or no follow up is made to check that employees are using the new skills and to help them where they have difficulties. In those cases where trainees return to the workplace with much enthusiasm, after a very short while it is back to business as usual. In consequence, at the end of the year there is very little to show for all the money and time that was spent on training.

If you are responsible for training in one of these organizations, how can you turn this around? Where should you start? The following is a practical model to help you meet this challenge. The power of the Training Management Maturity Model lies in its ability to provide you with an idea of where your organization sits in terms of training system effectiveness and in giving you the structure you need to construct a roadmap for improvement.

You will find this model helpful whether your organization already has an established training system and is just not sure about what steps to take next, or your organization has no training system and needs guidance on the first steps. Likewise, the usefulness of this model is not restricted to organizations that use exclusively inhouse trainers and consultants. If you buy all or some of your training from outside, you will equally find this model beneficial. Whether training is developed and delivered using internal resources or external, the training system requires effective management if it is to serve adequately the needs of your organization.

The Four Levels of Maturity

Figure 1 illustrates the basic phased approach of the Training Management Maturity Model. Organizations moving along the path of continuous improvement advance through the levels, building on the achievements of the prior level. The diagram also indicates the primary objective of operating at each level.

Figure 1 — The Four Levels of the Training Management Maturity Model

The Four Levels of the Training Management Maturity Model

Progressing Through the Maturity Levels

How will an organization look as it implements progressively efforts to improve the value of training and development activities? I have tried to paint that picture here, as well as illustrating how success at each level is dependent on performing effectively at the level below.

Organizations at the primary level, Level 1 – Visibility, concentrate on getting the basic administrative processes defined and practiced rigorously. Without knowing who has been trained in what and when, how much it cost and what they thought of it, improvement activities at the next level would be administratively unsupported and chaotic.

At Level 2 – Standards, there is a focus on improving the quality of the training product developed and finally delivered. Skill gaps are identified before training begins and designers and trainers are professionally equipped to ensure that participants have learned the desired skills following the training. If the training product remains of poor quality and does not deliver the required skills, planning activities conducted at the next level are destined for failure even before the ink has had a chance to dry.

At Level 3 – Planning, more emphasis is placed on mobilising training to hit areas of greatest organizational need. Training is used more effectively as an organizational tool for achieving strategic objectives and less as discretionary expenditure in response to ad hoc requests. Without a clear picture of where the organization is going and robust planning processes in place, improvement activities at the next level will have little direction and means of verification.

Operating at Level 4 – Performance leverages off the disciplines, systems and practices put in place during the previous three stages to achieve real organizational benefits from training. The focus is unswervingly on measurable performance improvement at the level of the organization, teams and individuals. At this level, attention to training activities and inputs is only maintained in so far as they serve the achievement of organizational outcomes.

Linking the Maturity Model to Practice

The model is more fully shown in Table 1. Looking at the model, you will see that it is structured deliberately around organizational objectives and practices. Each level of the model is defined by a Focus, a corresponding Primary Objective, Key Practices and suggested Key Performance Indicators.

The overall mission of the training and development function is to "Deliver people capability required to achieve organizational objectives through training and development activities". Each level of the model focuses on just one of four core processes that serve this mission. This concentration is reflected in the Focus statement at each of the four levels. The model helps to make sense of those core processes and provides guidance on which activities to concentrate for maximum impact on the road to improvement. The idea here is that improvement efforts at each maturity level lay the infrastructure and embed the organizational practices necessary for achievement of the next maturity level.

The core process that is the primary focus at each level is as follows:

Level 1 – Visibility focuses on training administration
Level 2 – Standards focuses on program development and delivery
Level 3 – Planning focuses on training strategy and planning
Level 4 – Performance focuses on performance consulting

Linking the model to an organization's practices is also achieved through the other parts of the model's structure. The Primary Objective of each phase specifies the intended organizational outcome of efforts at that level. Each objective says what it is the organization will get by achieving the given level of maturity.

The Key Practices section then goes on to list what it is the organization needs to put in place to achieve that level of maturity. The Key Practices are not meant to be prescriptive. The intention is to provide guidance on what processes and capabilities are required for operating at that level, leaving it to you to decide, given your organization's context, how this is to be done.

A range of Key Performance Indicators is listed next. You may use these indicators in two ways; firstly, to gauge the impact of your project efforts to achieve a certain maturity level and, secondly, to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of the system. The indicators I list here are suggestive only. You will need to construct indicators that match your organization's context and specific objectives.

Training Management Maturity Model Wall Chart

Maturity Model Chart PDF Download
Table 1 – Training Management Maturity Model
FOCUS Defined administrative and reporting processes Established training principles and methods Integration with organization’s planning processes Continuous and measurable performance improvement
PRIMARY OBJECTIVE Provide accurate management reports on training activity Deliver real and measurable skill improvements Plan and prioritise training in line with organization’s strategic goals Improve training processes and organization, team and individual outcomes

Training records are maintained and audited for accuracy

Training activity and expenditure are reported regularly to management

Training registration procedures are communicated and followed

Training participant reactions are surveyed and reported

Established training methodologies are used

Internal and external trainers are qualified

Training suppliers are evaluated for quality

Management support for training is visible

All new employees are inducted to organization

Participant feedback is used to improve training

Participant learning is assessed and reported

Training programs are managed using established project management methods

Annual training plans are compiled, agreed and resourced

Plans incorporate needs at all levels of organization

Career development planning is undertaken

Progress against plans is tracked and reported

Workforce competencies are defined and measured

Participant behaviour change is measured and reported

Training interventions are integrated with improvement programs

Workplace performance support is available

Individuals and teams receive coaching and mentoring

Potential leaders are identified and developed

Partnerships are developed with educational and professional institutions

Effectiveness of training system is evaluated and reported

Organizational benefits are measured and reported

  • percent training records accurate
  • percent compliance with training procedures
  • number of management reports delivered on time
  • number of employees trained
  • training days per employee
  • percent training budget spent
  • percent programs complying with training methodology
  • percent internal trainers qualified
  • percent training suppliers meet minimum requirements
  • percent new employees inducted within three months
  • participant satisfaction score
  • percent participants passed assessments
  • project evaluation score
  • percent plans completed on time
  • percent progress reports delivered on time
  • annual plan progress
  • percent employees with career development plan
  • percent learned skills applied in workplace
  • percent improvement in organizational capability
  • ROI of major training programs
  • percent improvement in coachees’ performance
  • coach and mentor availability
  • number of potential leaders complete program
  • number of services from partnered institutions

Maturity Model Themes

We have seen that as organizations move through the levels, achievement at each level lays a stepping-stone for the next. It will be difficult for an organization to move to the next level of maturity without institutionalising the practices of the previous level. This is because a number of themes run through the levels. Broadly speaking, as the training system matures there will be:

  • more effective targeting of training in areas of high organizational impact
  • more effective planning and reporting
  • greater integration of training with other people management systems
  • more collaborative partnerships with internal and external stakeholders
  • increasing attention to all phases of an employee's career
  • more highly developed skills in internal and external trainers and consultants
  • increasing emphasis on measuring organizational outcomes and less on activities and inputs

Space does not permit expanding on these themes here. However, I encourage you to think about how your organization is improving in each of these areas. Think also about what other organizational systems and processes need to be in place for you to move to the next level. For example, advancing to the next notch in creating an effective annual training plan may require your organization to develop more formal strategic and operational plans.

From Theory to Action

In this age of shrinking budgets and meaner and leaner competitors, training and development professionals are being asked more and more to show how they can add value to their organization. Fortunately, you are in the right profession. In this knowledge economy, people are the main differentiator between those organizations that survive and those that don't.

With the Training Management Maturity Model, you are now in a position to determine the effectiveness of your current system. For each Key Practice, consider whether it is in place or not. Issues to consider are:

  • Does the workplace culture support the use of this practice?
  • Is the practice documented and communicated?
  • Is the practice followed systematically?
  • Are the results of the practice checked for completeness and effectiveness?

More importantly, you are now able to construct a 'roadmap' for your organization; a summary of actions you plan to implement for progressing to the next notch. After ascertaining where your organization is now, decide where you want your organization to be. This is your target level. For each Key Practice at the target level that is not in place, or is in need of improvement, think about what actions need to be taken to embed fully the practice. Record your actions, get agreement from key decision-makers and then go do it!

© Copyright Leslie Allan

About the Author
Leslie Allan

Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and trainer for organizations large and small.

He is also the author of five books on training and change management and is the creator of various training tools and templates. Leslie is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the Quality Society of Australasia. He is also a member of the Divisional Council of the Victorian Division of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). Leslie may be contacted by email at

Leslie Recommends
Training Management Maturity Model

Start assessing your training function's Key Practices at each maturity level. Download Leslie Allan's Training Management Maturity Model. Included in the pack is everything you need to conduct an evaluation and report findings. Visit the Training Management Maturity Model information portal to find out how to download the free Maturity Chart and start using this practical benchmarking and reporting tool today.

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