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The Value of Training?


So - the gauntlet is dropped - come on down and engage in a debate. Is training REAL and does it have any relevance? - I'm beginning to doubt it. Seems to me the industry has tried too hard to justify itself by taking on academic pretensions and 'Ab Fab' aspirations. Is there any value added by training inputs - how do we know? Do TNA's and evaluations really tell us anything or are they just objective subjectivity (pseudo science)? Surely if we want to sell our services to others we should be able to defend/prosecute them amongst ourselves. What do you think?

4 Responses

  1. Re: Value of Training?
    I must admit that I’m unsure what you are getting at here. It seems somewhat like a ‘Mr Angry’ generalisation so have you had a customer refuse to accept a TNA or something?

    However, I agree to a degree with the objective subjectivity bit and the academic pretentions. I think trainers should have a broad understanding of some academic stuff, but reality and pragmatism does mean that it should be used with care.

    It seems to me that if you want to sell your services then it’s your customers’ decision as to whether a TNA and/or Evaluation is required to ‘defend or prosecute’ your services’ quality?

    What I would agree with is that a TNA and Evaluation is only as good as the trainer who does them. I think too much emphasis is placed on Kirkpatric & ROI; there are other, more relevant evaluation models to look at and they are only a guide after all. The ROI (£) in training is notoriously difficult (nigh impossible) to prove but what about the other benefits in doing a job better for example.

  2. Jay Cross ~ ‘What Would Andrew Do’
    I can’t muster the energy to respond to the opening statement by Jim Cass. But I would like to reply to Phil Pryce’s comment: “The ROI (£) in training is notoriously difficult (nigh impossible) to prove but what about the other benefits in doing a job better for example.”

    I agree that other alternative data to financial impacts of training might be preferred by some clients but it is straightforward enough to determine financial impacts provided an effective TNA is undertaken, clear metrics are agreed up front and the process is not as an after thought.

    And the issue of correlation; cause and effect is addressed perfectly by Jay Cross in his recent book called ‘What Would Andrew Do’. He looks closely at the process of evaluation and proving the alignment of development and learning in organisation. He comes to pretty much the same conclusion as me on this issue. Here’s a quote. Great minds think alike or all fools think the same depending on your position.

    ‘“Proof is a figment” Otherwise brilliant people assure me that it’s impossible to isolate the impact of training. You can never tell whether some concurrent event has contaminated the results and negated their value as scientific evidence of training’s impact. To which I reply, “Baloney!” (Not an exact quote.) All quests for certainty in our uncertain world are futile. Business decisions are made with less-than-perfect information; it comes with the territory. Management is not conducting a science class – it’s looking for results.

    So the question is not: How do we prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a given training program produced a given result? The question is: What will our sponsor accept as persuasive evidence that the program produced the result? Working with strong probabilities, we proceed to make our case logically – linking learning to business results. Establish a causal link between a particular skill deficiency and a particular business outcome. If the owner of the problem buys into this logic and the way you will measure it after training, that’s all the proof you need.’

    Book details here:

    And to finish, one final quote from Arriffin Mansor:

    ‘Training is a social science, it is obviously impossible to evaluate the effects of training with laboratory and test tube precision. Just like any other business decision, we have to live with assumptions and informed analysis, not absolute examination and medical scientific rigour. If we accept ROI in general business terms, how could we not accept ROI in training?’

    Just a different view.

  3. The Value of Training – well value to whom?
    The training profession spends huge amounts of time and energy looking in minute detail at the training event ( classroom, online – whatever), and minimal amounts of time trying to understand what the training is actually for. That is, what will be different in the organisation once the training is complete. IF ( and its a big if) TNA actually analyses the organisational need for which training may be part or all of the solution, then its worth its weight in gold, and will help the whole organisation understand better what it needs to do to achieve a result. Mostly TNA picks up a set of ‘skill requirements’ that may have been generated by a competency list produced by an unknown person some time ago, or the perceived skill needs dictated by a line manager without close analysis of the problem. (You know the sort – any possible hint that their team isn’t performing, and it must be due to lack of training).

    The same applies to evaluation – IF it actually evaluates the difference between before and after ( even allowing for some other non-training effects to have an impact) then it is a valuable, and value adding activity. If it helps you IMPROVE the difference between before and after, thats even better. If it only looks at the training event, then once you have reached a minimum quality standard, it adds little value.

    To sum up: For training to be valuable to an organisation we have to have SOME idea of what difference the training has made. Jim is right, that much of what passes for TNA and evaluation is really inward looking to the L&D profession and meaningless to the rest of the organisation. Simply getting people to tell us they had a good experience ( hopefully true) and that they learnt a lot ( infact, unlikely to be true – most evidence shows that people consistently over estimate how much they have learned) is indeed poor science.

    But its not all doom and gloom! Just starting to think about what difference the training might make ( creating a LIne of Sight between training and organisational goals for instance) can start to make a real difference both to the content and the impact of a training programme.

  4. The Value of Training
    I think it depends on how you define ‘training’ and what sort of training inputs you had in mind. I have some sympathy with your point of view in that I do think there is a lot of ‘fluff’ in the industry with little real connection with skills aquisition or job performance improvement. However, well designed and structured training based on sound learning theory can make a huge difference. Flying training, military training, medical training seem pretty ‘real’ to me! There is a direct impact on skill acquisition and job performance. A lot of this training is based on principles of Instructional Systems Design which an awful lot of self appointed ‘trainers’ have not been schooled in. If you were thinking of ‘firewalking’ or ‘assertiveness training’ or some more nebulous input I would agree with you about real value. The other point I would like to make is that a rigorous TNA should address the question of whether it is a training issue or not. Again I think that many so called TNAs are carried out by people who are not always competent in doing them or have a vested interest in ‘selling’ training as the solution. Equally guilty can be line managers who send people on ‘training’ to fix performance issues that need management action to fix. Good evaluation has always been problematic as performance improvement can only really be measured in the workplace by line supervision and this inevitably brings in a measure of subjectivity where job performance is more difficult to define. It has to be the right intervention (training or otherwise) at the right time for the right people. Get any of the factors wrong and the chances are it won’t add much value. If the training is poorly designed and poorly delivered then again its ability to add value is reduced. How am I doing?

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