Measure Training Success by Demonstrating Value

“Training is a cost, so we always need to justify our value to the business.”

I’ll bet you’ve heard the above statement before. It’s an accurate take on the challenge faced by many training pros, who work in environments where the training function is seen as an expense, versus a critical contribution to the bottom line.

If you’re struggling to demonstrate the value of training, you may be looking for all of your training solutions—instructor-led training, e-learning, performance support, etc.—to be seen as a strategic investment in the business. And to do that, you need to focus on things that are more meaningful than just course completions or scores. That data only captures activity, not bottom-line performance. To demonstrate value, you need to show how your training impacts things like:

  • Employee productivity
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Revenue and/or cost savings
  • Operational efficiency and/or accuracy

This may seem a tall order, but it’s really not. Odds are you have more access to data than you realize. Here are a few ideas and resources to kickstart your efforts.

Start with a Fuller Understanding of the Needs

Many requests for training stem from a strategic business need: for example, to reduce risk of losses, improve operational efficiency, or generate revenue. By the time that strategic need gets to you, it may have been refined to something more specific, like safety training or new product training.

To meet those underlying business needs, you need to start by looking at what kind of employee skills and/or behaviors have to change. Uncovering this is exactly why you do a needs analysis. A needs analysis is all about evaluating actual performance against what’s needed/expected—and then identifying the gaps between those two and determining why they exist.

Depending on the project, you may also find it necessary to do an audience analysis and/or a task analysis. But, by focusing on getting a fuller picture of the performance needs first, you’ll be able to link your recommended solution to a business metric, like the ones I mentioned above: productivity, revenue, operational efficiency.

For more details on conducting a needs analysis, check out these handy articles from Nicole Legault.

Align Training Solutions to Strategic Objectives

Successful businesses don’t operate in the dark. They’re constantly analyzing many different metrics to make sure they’re operating at a profit. This is good news for you for several reasons.

First, knowing how the business defines success can help you tailor your training solutions to align with that vision. After all, if someone is taking the time to measure it, then it’s valued.

It also means methods of measurement and data are already available … if you do some digging around.

For more tips on gathering and using business metrics, check out some more amazing advice from Nicole: Using KPIs to Make the Business Case for E-Learning.

Calculate the ROI

Often when business people talk about value, it’s in the context of “Return on Investment,” or ROI. 

ROI is one key way of evaluating whether an outcome is worth the investment. For training, this means measuring the potential benefits of your training solutions against the costs of developing those solutions.

When it comes to determining the benefits of training, digging for the numbers that drove the training request is crucial, but can be tricky. I find it’s helpful to start by asking stakeholders for the metrics they used to help establish a business need in the first place. You may also be able to ask line-of-business leaders, project managers, or supervisors for help with gathering this information.

To calculate how much your e-learning costs to create (the investment), you’ll need to gather figures like the cost of authoring software, your development time, graphic or media resources, and learner downtime for completing training.

Once you’ve compiled all of this information, you can use some basic math to calculate the ROI. For the lowdown on this process, don’t miss out on this detailed explanation (with examples) from Nicole: How to Calculate the Cost-Benefit of E-Learning.

More Learning

Training, as with any investment, boils down to the value of the investment. And measuring attendance or quiz scores just doesn’t paint a full picture of your value to the organization. After all, assessment scores or check-the-box e-learning completions are pointless if your learners can’t perform. 

For some great reading on this, and related topics, don’t miss these articles:

How are you proving the value of training in your organization? Share your tips and ideas with us with a comment below.

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and come back to E-learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

Tennille Merkle

Hi Trina, This did not take a long time to do. We use an average hourly salary to compute labor expenses for our Lean/Six SIgma projects, so I used that in my calculations. I compiled labor costs for trainers, preparation, and employee training time, then compared it to e-learning prep and e-learning viewing labor costs in a spreadsheet. For anyone else attempting this, I would suggest: 1. Don't leave any "hidden costs" out. For example, it took one trainer 6 hours to schedule 500 people into 20 sessions, because people kept requesting different sessions. (Exempt staff were able to reschedule via LMS without trainer assistance, but non-exempt had to be manually scheduled.) That added to total cost. 2. Compare apples to apples as much as possible. 3. Be honest with estim... Expand