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The Way I See It… Proving the More in More Out Principle


Michael Brown, Principal Consultant with John Matchett Limited, argues that a small increase in your training investment can generate measurably better business impact.

Ask any training professional whether they think evaluating the business return from training is a good idea and I guarantee you they will say yes. Ask them how many of their programmes they evaluate at Business Impact level, and the answer is rarely “all of them”. What is it that stops us from building in Business Impact evaluation into each and every programme we invest in?

There are many reasons, but the two answers I hear most often are “it’s too complex” and “you can never prove anything”. My recent experience of working with a client on an extensive training programme has convinced me that both of these responses are flawed.

The programme was for 150 sales managers from across Europe for the one of the world’s top IT companies. The investment was in a 6 day development programme built around sales strategy and management skills. The programme represented the company’s biggest ever single investment in training, totalling in excess of 2 million Euros. As such, the investment was very high focus, especially as it was sponsored and supported in person by the Sales Director for EMEA.

Effective follow up and measurement of business impact was therefore part of the thinking when designing the programme right from the start (which is where many evaluation methodologies fall over, as they are designed after the event rather than at the point of designing the programme).

The approach used was very simple: every participant on the programme received a phone call after each of the 3 modules, and was asked some simple questions:

• What are your comments about the programme?
• What were your key learning points?
• What have you implemented so far?
• What do you plan to implement?
• What has the business impact been from what you have done differently?

Each call took between 15 and 30 minutes, allowing time for quality discussion and some coaching where appropriate.

The results of the calls were collated regularly and sent to the programme sponsors and designers so that adjustments could be made to feedback on the course. Final calls were made some 6 weeks after the end of the programme, by which time a detailed and comprehensive picture had been created of what people were doing differently and what this was worth to the company. In most cases this was recorded verbatim on individual record sheets, so that follow up could take place if need be.

From the data gathered it soon became clear that the training investment was producing massive business returns. People were spending more time with their teams, offering more coaching, rethinking their approach to the market place, collaborating more, restructuring to focus on priorities and so on. The detailed examples soon built a picture of thousands of dollars of business benefit.

From the training designers’ perspective, the investment in the phone calls equated to c. 20% additional budget. In return for this they achieved the following benefits:

• Early quality feedback after the event (when it is more considered than what you read on ‘happy sheets’)
• Increased pressure on participants to learn and to apply what they learnt
• Opportunity to identify where extra coaching or support is needed
• Fantastic data for managing the internal PR message
• Quality data for Business Return calculation, enabling a decision to invest further to take place
• Enhanced image and profile for the Learning and Development team.

Will they do it again? Of course. Can anyone do it? Of course – no degree in rocket science required! Should everyone do it? Of course – it should become as standard approach as the ‘happy sheet’ process we all use now. It will do all of us good, and I wouldn’t mind betting that it would lead to an increase in training investment across the industry over time.


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