How to Measure Training
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How many times have you been asked to justify the time, effort and money that has been invested in your training? You and I know that any form of learning is 'a good thing', and that learning justifies itself, but that answer is unlikely to satisfy auditors and accountants. The question cannot be answered objectively without some kind of measurement. Deciding what these measurements should be is a challenging task and this article explores some conventional - and less conventional measures of training.
Training measurements can be divided into four categories:
The first three categories are quantitative. They are relatively easy to measure but can be perceived as bureaucratic. Quantitative measures have to be used with caution - e.g. one of the most popular of the time measures is the number of hours of training received by each employee per year. Many companies have a blanket target of 40 hours. Although this is useful as a guide, it is possible to imagine a situation where a highly skilled workforce would need only two hours of training a year. Training should always be related to the need.
Financial measures cover both costs and earnings and expressing these as ratios allows you to compare your costs and earnings with other companies. For example, the training budget can be expressed as apercentage of employment costs or company revenue. The budget can be divided by the number of employees to give the investment per employee. Other cost measures look at how much it costs to provide:
- a trainer;
- a day of a training course;
- a day of training for one student.
Earnings, where applicable, look at:
- income per trainer;
- income per square metre of training area;
- income as a percentage of the training budget.
Utilisation covers both trainer utilisation and facility utilisation. Facility utilisation is the amount of use that is made of the training facility. Trainer utilisation includes:
- the percentage of time a trainer spends in front of a class;
- how much time is spent preparing for a course compared to the time spent delivering it;
- the number of hours required to develop one hour of training.
Time measures include:
- the amount of training received per employee per year;
- how quickly the training is delivered after the need had been identified;
- how long it takes to develop a course.
Using quantitative measures for benchmarking
One of the advantages of using these quantitative measures is that they allow you to benchmark your training effectiveness against other companies. Figure 1 and Figure 2 are examples of two benchmarks:
- hours of training per employee per year;
- the training investment expressed as a percentage of the company's employment costs.
Figure 1 Hours of training per employee per year
Figure 2 Training investment as percentage of employment costs These figures are historical and are used for illustration purposes only. Figures for the construction, finance, and office equipment industries were obtained from a Government White Paper. Saturn was a General Motors 'green field' car plant. Spirax Sarco is a steam systems company. RXM&SC was the Rank Xerox Manufacturing and Supply Chain.
Many organizations have used quantitative measures to improve training effectiveness (and to put training on the business agenda) but there was a feeling that there was more to do beyond what quantitative measures could achieve. Alternative measures used by some of these organizations include:
- extracting employees' opinions on training from the employee satisfaction survey;
- tracking the extent to which training and development plans are achieved;
- collecting student perceptions at the end of the course;
- investigating the extent to which employees have been certified to do their current job;
- locking-in to European Foundation for Quality Management audits (EFQM).
- using Investors in People criteria;
- introduction of Business Excellence Certification. (Business Excellence Certification is a method in which an organization's business processes are audited by senior managers from other organizations.)
Measuring training effectiveness, from a process point of view, also promises to be a fruitful line of research, providing participating organizations agree on philosophy and principles. Process questionsallow an assessment of training effectiveness to be made without getting bogged down in numbers.
One of the primary questions would be whether the organization has a training process. Figure 3, adapted from Managing the Training Process gives an example of such a process.
Figure 3 Example of a training process
This and other process questions, based on agreed principles, should be included in the training section of and organization's audit. Some quantitative measures can also be included providing:
- they are selected in consultation with the businesses;
- the organizations being audited find them useful in monitoring their own performance.
Examples of process questions are:
- Has a training needs analysis been completed?
- Are training needs linked to the business plan?
- Is training an appropriate solution?
- Have training staff been accredited as professional trainers and trainers of the subject matter?
- Have training courses been accredited?
- Is training validated and evaluated?
- Do people have 'living' development plans?
- Have people been trained to do their job?
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