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How Do I Show Training Impact?

February 11, 2014

Dear Mission Impossible,

Many organizations don’t see how training connects to tangible business improvements, even when it does. Attendance at training programs is often seen as a perquisite, similar to a day off with pay, rather than as a means of developing value-adding new skills and abilities.

I call this the “invisible flower” syndrome. We plant the seed and hope it flourishes, but even if it does, the result often goes unnoticed. The real problem here is that we really don’t know what we are looking for out of most training experiences. Here’s a simple way to fix training.

Do a Snag Analysis

A snag analysis is a brief review of individual or group performance that reveals specific needed improvement. Start by looking at performance reviews, coaching notes and disciplinary writings to determine where development opportunities exist (for example, spreadsheet skills).

Next, determine specifically how much time the inefficiency is costing your organization. In this instance, you could look at the time it takes finance managers with higher-level skills to accomplish the same tasks and compare it to the finance manager with whom you are working.

Assume a snag analysis found that a finance manager’s lack of expertise at using spreadsheets caused him to spend three hours a week more on this duty than his cohorts.

Specify the financial or other operating cost of the inefficiency. Assume this finance manager makes $50 per hour. If you are losing approximately 150 hours of productivity a year, this costs your organization about $7,500.

Do an Opportunity Allocation

Doing training to improve a base skill is pretty much a waste of time unless you can use the recovered time productively. Who wants to spend money training someone to get his or her job done in three hours less time per week, just so that person can chat with and distract others or surf the Internet?

Work with the employee to identify three hours a week of specific value-adding additional work that will be done once training is completed. Determine how that additional work benefits the organization.

In this case, the minimum return would be three hours of additional work a week. Frequently, however, the value of new work that is completed exceeds the value of work it replaced. For example, your finance manager could spend three hours more a week negotiating better terms with vendors. This can very easily turn into a significant new contribution to the bottom line.

Measure and Report

It’s an old saw but nevertheless holds true: “What gets measured, gets done.” Ask for a weekly report on how long it takes to complete the required tasks, such as learning to use spreadsheets, and track it for several weeks once training is completed.

Also ask the manager to report on the additional value created by the time recovered. What additional work was completed? What additional financial or other results were generated?

Do the Math

If the manager was gone eight hours for training ($400) and the training cost the company $600, the organization allocated $1,000 to this development activity. 

Assume that you’ve identified $7,500 worth of return on this investment. Most companies will gladly invest $1,000 to get a sevenfold return.

Following these simple steps brings your “invisible flower” into view, provides tangible return on investment and equips your employees with skills and attributes that satisfy your organization’s evolving business needs.

SOURCE: Rick Galbreath, Performance Growth Partners Inc., Bloomington, Illinois, Feb. 5, 2014