For many companies, 2020 has provided a unique set of challenges that have impacted budgets and projects. There is increased pressure to ensure each dollar goes to the most effective use and learning and development projects are often some of the first areas to be cut. Why? Businesses often struggle to understand and articulate return on investment (ROI) for employee education. Furthermore, training and development projects are often seen as accessories to more important projects that focus on operations, sales, etc. Simply put, learning and development is often viewed as an unnecessary or “extra” spending area.
In reality, this notion couldn’t be further from the truth. Employee education and training is at the heart of every successful business, and without professional development projects companies would find themselves struggling to complete work and keep business moving. As L&D professionals, it is our job to prove the worth of training programs. To get buy-in from management and get approval for new projects, we recommend drafting and providing an ROI forecast. In order to do that effectively, you need to rethink your training evaluation strategy.
First, think about the overall purpose of the training and consider whether or not implementation is in the right area and for the right reasons. Often, businesses can get so caught up in the idea of training and development that they miss the mark on delivering what they actually need. This can happen as a cause of L&D projects being passed back and forth between departments, ambiguous learning outcomes, and underdevelopment of training programs. Before you do anything, make sure that past and present training is being delivered to the right people for the right reasons.
Next, you’re going to need a way to evaluate exactly how your training programs are doing. This is important because it is the best way for you to convince upper management that what you are doing works and is essential to business success. We recommend Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation to get started.
1. Reaction. To what degree did the learners react favorably to the training experience?
2. Learning. To what degree did the learners acquire the intended knowledge, skills, and attitudes as a result of the training?
3. Behavior. To what degree did the learners apply what they learned back on the job?
4. Results. To what degree did the targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training experience and follow-up reinforcement?
The way in which you interpret and apply these metrics may vary. Even more so, the way in which upper management values these different metrics may vary. Use these metrics to better understand not only where your training could improve in the future, but also areas that you may have been lacking in the past. For example, if employees are dreading training courses, you may need to address that before you consider to what degree they actually learned anything. After all, your employee’s reaction to the training is just as important as part as the actual results of the program.
After fully evaluating your current and past training programs with these four metrics, it is important that you create an ROI you can present to upper management to receive the budget you need to correct issues and/or implement new programs. Here’s how.
First, make it clear that training and development programs don’t only increase current knowledge; they are also a great way to identify needs and weaknesses within your company. Right now, the transition from in-person to online collaboration is changing employee efficiency and productivity. In many companies, there are issues that need to be addressed regarding efficient and effective online collaboration. Use training and development to understand the issues your company may face, then implement solutions that help correct those issues.
Second, there are many training programs now offered that are scalable and reusable. In the past, in-person training sessions were costly and were limited to a specific audience at a specific time. Training today is much different—we can now deliver learning solutions that are asynchronous and highly accessible to ensure no money is lost or wasted. Modern training is agile—and agile solutions can save companies significant amount of money.
And finally, “show your work” by providing evidence and rational. Point out areas where employees may be struggling, or outdated training may be failing them. If you can, provide data metrics such as what percentage of employees enjoyed the training, improvements in productivity, etc. Remember, while some of this information may be obvious to you, it is still your job to explain it clearly to others within your organization.
As companies continue to cut funding and postpone and/or cancel projects, it is critical that L&D professionals show the worth of training and development programs. Having created budget-friendly, effective solutions for employee education for nearly 40 years, Dashe is well equipped to deliver a solution that meets your needs. As business processes continue to change, it is essential that our workforce is not only equipped to face new challenges, but has the support of upper management, learning resources, and training programs that foster growth.