John Pope asks the tough questions and examines the tangible measurements of training.
There have been several articles on measuring the gain from training and development and on the need to maintain investment in training. I also see articles showing fantastic financial benefits. Some of those claims for the benefits of training lead me to ask – if it’s so obviously valuable, why would any manager need to justify the cost; why would training be one of the early sacrifices to be made to the gods of profitability and cashflow? I suppose that the answer is that the ‘hard men’ in accounts have yet to be convinced.
Visible effectiveness of training and development
The tough questions on the effectiveness of training and development are about tangible measurable gains:
- What does the individual or team do better or more effectively after than before it, as opposed to what they could do from what they have learned?
- What is that gain worth in terms of what the organisation really values, like money or quality or better service with real 'hard' benefits?
- Is that gain really worth the cost in money, disruption or loss of productive time?
- Is that benefit lasting or is it a short-term gain which is then lost through lack of use or when another new idea comes along?
There are other questions: Was that intervention the only way these gains could have been achieved? Could there have been a cheaper one? Yes, I know there can be intangible benefits, such as motivation but, quite frankly, if you have to rely on those to justify the investment you are really scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Measure the benefits
Good skills and knowledge when properly applied to opportunities bring benefits. But unless we have some record of those skills, opportunities and outcomes we cannot really measure the benefits. The ultimate measure is when the individual can say honestly: "It was only because I had that training I was able to get that result which was something the organisation really values." Occasionally that benefit can be measured.
Ineffective training and development
We should identify training that is ineffective for which there can be many reasons. The most common one seem to be lack of opportunity or incentive to use the new knowledge – my favourite example is of supervisors in a 'power company' being taught to do 'discounted cashFlow' – or the loss of the individual to another function. Readers will have their own examples.
Measuring a benefit is not enough, though if the benefit seems good enough, and clearly and substantially outweighs the all-up cost, few managements will quibble.
But when the costs are substantial it is surely right to investigate whether the selection of those to be trained, training methods, and duration really were value for money and whether it produced the results which were used to justify it.
John Pope has been a management consultant for over 40 years and has worked to improve the development and performance of businesses, managers and management teams for most of his career. To know more about John's work and services please visit the website: http://www.johnpopeassociates.co.uk. His book 'Winning Consultancy Business' was published in July and is now available through his website. He can be contacted at [email protected].