In a knowledge-based economy, workforce’s ability to quickly adapt to changing realities is critical to the continued success of the organization. To facilitate the upkeep of workforce knowledge and skills, training professionals seek out innovative training design models and delivery methodologies to provide the right information to the right individual at the right time. Authoring, delivery, collaborative and management tools can greatly facilitate the development, distribution, sharing and tracking of training materials. However, if the impact of training programs on organization’s missions/goals is not being assessed, our limited training resources may end up supporting programs with little or no value and even worse – waste employees’ valuable time.
Of course every training program is initiated for a reason. The problem, however, arises from relying on qualitative evidence to build the business case for training – such as, it is compulsory, it addresses a performance deficiency, it improves productivity, it is needed for the introduction of new processes or equipment, etc., making them difficult to assess and prioritize from client or executive perspective. When considering a significant investment or multiple requests, executives require a quantitative measure that addresses the following questions – how will the training program help the unit and organization attain its goals; is it worth it; and how does it compare to other initiatives – for example, if 20 programs are being considered, but can only fund 10, which ones should be funded and why. Although for some, these may not appear to be training issues, they are critical to demonstrating the value of training services.
First, we have to recognize that the assessment should be done at the planning stage when budgets and resources are being allocated. In other words, we cannot rely on current evaluation models (e.g., Kirkpatrick and Phillips) that assess the impact after training has been delivered – by then it is too late. By shifting from historical data collection models, to a predictive analysis model, managers will: (1) become more responsive to current and future training needs, (2) increase the impact of training by focusing on the most crucial initiatives, and (3) improve training programs efficiency by selecting the most cost-effective blend of delivery options.
To facilitate the assessment of training programs impact – i.e., conversion of qualitative evidence into quantitative measure – at the planning stage, the following simple and practical model is proposed:
Step 1. Define and prioritize the problem or opportunity and validate assumptions. In other words, who initiated the request for training, and for what reason? Based upon circumstantial evidence and constraints, the validity of a request can be evaluated, impact on organization/unit missions/goals estimated and the need for further analysis confirmed. By linking the requirement to the mission/goal of the organization/unit, the weight for each request can be classified accordingly as: Critical (4), Very Important (3), Important (2) or Somewhat Important (1).
Note: The monetary benefit for resolving the problem or initiating an opportunity may be used in-lieu of the weight. In most cases, individuals that initiated the request for training can estimate the monetary value – otherwise they would have not initiated the request. Examples of how the monetary value of a problem/opportunity can be estimated are presented in Table 1.
Table 1. Examples of Measurable Benefits
|Improve productivity||The sooner desired productivity is attained; the sooner productivity gains can be realized. For example, process more action requests or resolve more technical problems.|
|Reduce errors||The sooner new processes are implemented; the sooner savings can be realized. For example, minimize waste, rework or administrative costs.|
|Reduce operating costs||The sooner new technology is introduced; the sooner savings can be realized. For example, reducing overhead or overtime.|
|Reduce number of personnel||The sooner employees are ready to perform new functions, the sooner downsizing or rightsizing can take place.|
Step 2. Assess the impact of tasks on the problem or opportunity. The relative impact of each task can be easily computed by identifying how tasks performed by each group (occupation) are impacting the problem or opportunity. For example,
- Impact of Task by Account Executives on problem/opportunity is Critical (4)
- Impact of Task by Customer Service on problem/opportunity is Somewhat Important (1)
And the problem/opportunity “inability to retain 90% of clientele”, for example, is classified as Critical (4) or has a monetary value of [$100,000]
- Impact of Task by Account Executives on problem/opportunity = 3.2 (4 x 4 / 5) [$80,000]
- Impact of Task by Customer Service on problem/opportunity = 0.8 (4 x 1 / 5) [$20,000]
This implies that to resolve the problem/opportunity “inability to retain 90% of clientele”, the performance of Account Executives and Customer Service groups should be improved. Moreover, it points out that Account Executives have four times the impact on “retaining clientele” as the Customer Service group.
Step 3. Confirm the need for training and assess impact. A number of venues may be used to validate the assumption that training is needed. These include document searches, surveys, individual or group interviews, etc. The key point here is – some form of empirical evidence is needed to validate that training would resolve the performance deficiency within each group.
Note: A performance deficiency may be caused by a lack of clarity in described job functions, inadequate feedback, lack of access and/or reliability of resources used to perform the task, disincentives to perform effectively and/or efficiently, lack of requisite knowledge and skills, physical and mental capacity or motivation. In most cases, the solution for a performance deficiency is not training as illustrated in Table 2.
Table 2. Plausible Solutions for Potential Problems
|Source of the Problem||Plausible Solution|
|Clarity of job functions||Explain job functions|
|Adequacy of feedback||Offer adequate feedback|
|Access/Reliability of resources needed to perform task||Provide access to reliable resources needed to perform task|
|Incentives to perform effectively and efficiently||Implement an incentive system|
|Lack of knowledge/skills||Train|
|Physical and mental capacity||Supplement capabilities|
Should there be a requirement for multiple solutions, training and tools for example, then the relative impact of each solution can be easily computed by factoring in the impact of each solution on the performance deficiency, as follows. If:
- Account Executives lack critical knowledge and skills, then the impact of Training on performance deficiency can be classified as Critical (4)
- Account Executives do not have access to the latest technology, then the impact of Tools on performance can be classified as Important (2)
In this case, the impact of plausible solutions can be computed as follows:
- Impact of Training to Account Executives = 2.13 (3.2 x 4 / 6) [$53,333]
- Impact of Tools to Account Executives = 1.07 (3.2 x 2 / 6) [$26,667]
This implies that both training and tools are needed to resolve the performance deficiency for Account Executives and training has twice the impact on the problem/opportunity “retaining clientele” as the tools.
On the other hand, if only training is needed by Customer Service to eliminate the performance deficiency, then the Impact of Training to Customer Service = 0.8 (0.8 x 4 / 4) [$20,000]
Step 4. Assess the feasibility of implementation. Assess the feasibility/effectiveness of solutions by examining available lines of funding, existing resources needed to implement and sustain the final solution, compatibility with existing systems, and organizational attitudes/perception regarding the proposed solutions. In other words, the more resistance to training the less effective it is expected to be.
Assuming that training will close the knowledge/skill gap for 80% of Account Executives and 70% Customer Service, and the tools will further improve the performance of 90% of Account Executives, the net impact of the plausible solutions can be computed as follows:
- Net Impact of Training to Account Executives = 1.70 (2.13 x 0.8) [$42,666]
- Net Impact of Tools to Account Executives = 0.96 (1.07 x 0.9) [$24,000]
- Net Impact of Training to Customer Service = 0.56 (0.80 x 0.7) [$14,000]
Step 5. Forecast the costs of plausible solutions. For each solution, estimate the direct (out of pocket expense) and indirect (productivity loss) costs pertaining to design, development, administration, management, delivery, support and maintenance over life.
Step 6. Prioritize recommendations and prepare a plan of action. The cost benefit ratio for each solution can be computed by simply dividing the impact (benefits) by the costs. For example, if the cost of training programs to Account Executives and Customer Service are $10,000 and $8,000 respectively, and the cost of tools for Account Executives are $6,000, then:
- Cost Benefit of Training to Account Executives = 0.00017 (1.70 / $10,000) [4.27]
- Cost Benefit of Tools to Account Executives = 0.00016 (0.96 / $6,000) [4.00]
- Cost Benefit of Training to Customer Service = 0.00007 (0.56 / $8,000) [1.75]
Note: If the monetary value of problem or opportunity has been estimated, then the return on investment (ROI) of each solution can also be forecasted by dividing the net benefits by the costs. That is (net impact – costs) / costs. In this case:
- ROI of Training to Account Executives = 327% ($42,666 – $10,000) / $10,000
- ROI of Tools to Account Executives = 300% ($24,000 – $6,000) / $6,000
- ROI of Training to Customer Service = 75% ($14,000 – $8,000) / $8,000
With this in hand, it is easy to compile, sort and compare the costs and benefits of training programs as well as other interventions and allocate money and resources to initiatives that will generate the greatest benefit (impact) at the lowest possible cost. Moreover, clients and executives will become keenly aware of the value of training services.
Cost Benefit Ratio
|Retain 90% of clientele||Training to Account Executives||0.00017||327%||$10,000|
|Tools to Account Executives||0.00016||300%||$6,000|
|Training to Customer Service||0.00007||75%||$8,000|
While a certain level of subjectivity is inherent in the proposed approach, it is nevertheless based on scientific principles commonly used in making various investment decisions. In addition, to managing expectations, it provides clear and measurable performance based outcomes that facilitate the validation of training impact upon completion.
The proposed forward looking model provides a simple, effective and reliable process for quantifying the impact of training programs at the planning stage and in-turn the allocation of money and resources to programs that will generate the greatest benefit (impact) at the lowest cost. Moreover, it is highly effective in communicating the value of training services as well as managing expectations. It is performance driven. It facilitates the validation of training impact upon completion, and can be used to forecast training return on investment (ROI). And if you are overwhelmed by this level of detail, don’t despair ADVISOR Enterprise is available to guide through the process.
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Established 1987, BNH helped hundreds of organizations align learning strategies with business goals. We are result oriented. We offer products, services and workshops to help organizations forecast, plan and manage training budgets and resources as well as identify ways to run training programs more effectively and economically. Our products include ADVISOR Enterprise – Training Resource Planning System Tool. BNH can be reached at (800) 747-4010, (514) 745-4010 and found on the web site at http://www.bnhexpertsoft.com
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Last updated on January 27, 2016.