Measuring the impact of training by aligning and understanding business objectives

Corporate Training| Instructional Design Tips
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Sometimes an internal sense of satisfaction is enough. When I’m on an easy, midweek jog, I leave my watch at home and am content with enjoying the run, knowing I pushed myself a little. But when I want to measure my progress, to demonstrate that I am clearly improving, I set a goal, establish a training plan, and work toward a personal record (PR).

Successful corporate training is rarely the former. We don’t have the luxury of simply knowing we did our best and believing our team members seem to be getting better too. We need to establish specific metrics for success, and we need to know that our training program is leading to that success.

In running, finding a metric for success is pretty straightforward: I know my current PR in a half-marathon, so I know what I have to run to beat it. Success metrics in training are often less obvious, but being able to measure training success against quantifiable business metrics can have several advantages:

  • More success in future projects
    Being able to measure the impact of your training means you can make changes to a current program after your initial results come in, or use the results to improve future projects.
  • More enthusiasm from the team
    If your team can see that time spent training has led to measurable results, their approach to training will vastly improve, leading to more successful future training efforts.
  • More support from your executives
    If your executive leadership can identify objective benefits to training, they will be much more likely to support future projects.
  • More strength in your portfolio
    If you can describe quantifiable improvements you have overseen, your value to the company will be much more obvious.

But even though we want to measure the impact of our training, finding the right business objectives can be a challenge. Making those objectives measureable and persuasive is a tall task as well. As we have worked with clients across industries and all over the world, we have found the following guidelines useful:

  • Be objective. Whether or not your training has been successful cannot be a matter of opinion. We don’t want our goal to be something subjective, such as “The sales staff will be more prepared for client presentations.” Subjective criteria like this make it difficult to persuade the learners or executives that the training is really bringing change. The business objective needs to be something objectively measureable that no one can disagree with.
  • Quantify. One of the keys to finding measureable business goals is to focus on quantifiable aims. Hoping for “more sales” can lead to the criticism that any improvement is not good enough. Be specific and attach a number to the desired improvement.
  • Find numbers in pairs. Even some numerical goals can be ambiguous: a 20% increase in client presentations sounds good, but it is only meaningful if we know how many presentations the team gives now. The most helpful business objectives will have a measure of the current and desired state. If your team is tracking certain metrics now, use them as the current state and build goals from them. If you’re not tracking what you hope to improve, begin tracking it now and use even a month or two of data as the baseline.
  • Identify behaviors. Once you have a measurable business goal (increase sales from $2 million per month to $3 million per month), identify the behaviors that are most responsible for holding you back. Is the team not cold-calling enough? Not making enough client presentations? Not converting presentations to opportunities at a high enough rate? Make these behaviors as specific as possible; this will help you target the training and make the cause-effect relationship much more clear.
  • If possible, quantify again. Once you know the behaviors that will lead to the goal, attempt to quantify those as well. Measuring behaviors is often more difficult than measuring goals, but in many case it can be done. If sales are down because the sales team is not converting leads to opportunities, make the conversion rate a secondary goal for the training. If project teams aren’t hitting timelines because review cycles take too long, make average review time a secondary goal.

Hoping to run a fast race is vague enough to leave the achievement of your goal open to interpretation. Setting a goal of running a half-marathon under an hour and 45 minutes will help you develop a training program with the right mix of speed and distance work, and when you achieve the goal, your efforts and dedication will be well worth it. Corporate training requires the same focus in the early stages as we establish our objectives. Specific, quantifiable, comparative business goals will focus our training and make the time and money we spend a strong investment.

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