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How to evaluate the ROI in employee training


Jason Silberman provides the community with an overview of the ROI landscape.

Employee training is critical for an organisation's improvement and continued innovation. However, it’s actually an area which is hard to measure quantitative ROI. Given the wide share of budget many organisations spend on employee training, the need for effective tools to measure and assess this performance becomes critical.

The difficulties in evaluating training sessions' success

People learn in different ways and at different paces. For this reason, training can’t simply be measured according to a set timeframe. Everyone should be provided with the adequate learning tools in order for the company's ROI to increase. In this regard, we can differentiate a wide range of employee learning characteristics.

Those who learn by:

  • Observing – watch others, then replicate
  • Inquiring – understand the process
  • Experimenting – trial and error
  • Patterning – step-by-step overview

It should be noted all learning styles are important in an organisation, and a complete training program should value them all and attempt to interlink several. Diversity needs to be enhanced, while the training strategy needs to not overwhelm the learner through all-at-once material. Also, the focus should be no more on training as an initial event, but rather as a long-term, continuous employee training strategy.

What are some better methods for evaluating continuous learning?

In a situation where the manager finds a discrepancy between the knowledge, skills and abilities of its employees and the desired level of performance, he should initiate a series of professional development processes. It’s important that a thorough analysis of these needs is not just a superficial examination, but should materialise the training needs.

Kirkpatrick method

In 1959, Donald Kirkpatrick published a taxonomy regarding employee evaluation instruction, which has been widely accepted as the standard in employee training evaluation. Kirkpatrick splits types of learning into different classes, which are commonly regarded as the following levels:

Level 1: Learner's satisfaction 

Level 2: Learner's proof of understanding 

Level 3: Learner's demonstration regarding the skills and abilities for the job

Level 4: Impact of the newly acquired skills for the job 

A fifth level was later introduced by Jack Phillips, referring to the ROI training calculation. In this regard, Phillips mentioned the need for a cost-effective demonstration of the training course and a later adaptation in case the demands are unfulfilled.

Brinkerhoff method

Robert Brinkerhoff created a system of training evaluation which focuses mainly on sustained performance as opposed to an isolated training effort. Being known as the Success Case Method (SCM), Binkerhoff's technique helps business leaders to identify the positive results in the organisation, as well as take advantage of different factors for making training more relevant. Unlike the Kirkpatrick's levels, SCM actually shows how training can be modified to become more effective. He states businesses need to identify teams/individuals with outstanding results, and then compare their training successes with unsuccessful instances.

The importance of performance and learning-on-demand aids in evaluating training success

Gone are the days when training was seen as a one-time event. Nowadays, for companies to reach their full performance potential, a proper long-term, continuous learning strategy becomes essential. With the appropriate tools learners can be given the possibility to learn on the go, whenever the need arises. This way they can have a more rounded training experience and at their own pace. This also results in an increased organisational ROI as well as employee performance. In addition, learning on-demand aids are vital in performance evaluation.

Most medium-sized companies spend an unnecessary amount of money on employee training; their total budget altogether counting over $109bn, according to ASTD. Learning-on-demand aids have an extremely beneficial role in this aspect, being able to stimulate productivity and help learners apply the knowledge they have been taught.

Performance and on-demand learning tools have become essential for the success of an organisation. They can help increase the ROI in an organisation, as well as boost the performance over an undefined timeframe.

Jason Silberman is Marketing Director at WalkMe, an interactive online guidance system and engagement platform, which reduces training times and costs, while raising performance levels. He is the lead author and editor of Training Station, a blog devoted to news and ideas on training, learning and employee performance. He recently published a free eBook – Express Train: How to Accelerate Employee Time to Competence” – with tips on overcoming some of the common challenges in employee training. Follow him at @tstationblog

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