Some Common Sense on Measuring Training Effectiveness

Written by Misha McPherson | May 7, 2012 3:39:05 PM

Measuring L&D drives me a bit bonkers, because it’s so often poorly done.

It’s not that I hate numbers. It’s not that I’m afraid that my program will be proved to be a disaster. It is just that I haven’t seen a truly accurate measurement yet. I think we will find a better way to

measure programs, and I can’t wait.

Until then, there are some very practical ways to test if your program is doing well. This is the type of common sense that doesn’t turn into ROI, but I think more accurately measures many programs.

1) Are you chasing students down?

Oh, this hits in the gut, doesn’t it? But we know that when we produce truly great programs, we don’t chase students down. Yes, there will always be that student who hates classes and will never come. Yes, there will always be the student who LOVES classes (and hint, hint — the student who LOVES all classes is typically a lower-performing employee). What are your mainstream students doing? Are they showing up? Are they doing the work, or not? It feels bad, but if students aren’t showing up, we aren’t making the learning relevant enough for them.

2) Word of mouth

Good programs get talked about. Great programs get recommended. There is no better feeling than when you teach something in a class, and a couple days later you hear someone else repeating what you said to someone else. Is it attributed to your class? Probably not. That’s OK. Gut check: you taught someone something important. If you are using social media in your classes, you can eavesdrop even better on these conversations. Provide good classes enough times, and students will start dropping by your desk, sending you email, IMing you… they will ask for help, because they heard about you. Word of mouth is powerful.

3) Undertrained vs. under-performing

Oh, this makes me sound like the big, bad, evil teacher, but it makes me nervous when I start getting too many under-performers requesting help. Good programs should up-level employees before they under-perform. When I start seeing a lot of under-performers, I start wondering whether that employee was set up to succeed or set up to fail. If they were set up to fail, I can’t do much to help because they are simply in the wrong position. If they were set up to succeed, and are failing, there is a bigger issue than training.

On the other hand, if the right percentage of under-trained employees are hitting my desk, that’s generally a good thing. Those are students that are set up to succeed, and I can typically do a lot with them to help them get to the next stage of their career or increase their job performance.

4) Look for the failures, not the successes

This is my advice on failure and success: Ignore your success as a boring end result. Focus on your failure.

When you succeed, do look at what worked well, and do that again. That’s not hard. What’s harder is having a constant trained eye on what … didn’t … work. Failure is not a bad thing. Embrace your failure. Success is boring; you’ve accomplished what you’ve come to do. Focus on failure, which will always give you a place to improve, to stretch, to grow.

Until I find a truly wonderful way to measure performance, I do pay a lot of attention to pure, simple common sense to find my my failures and make my training better.

And always, always, always, I pay attention to whether or not I have students in my classroom, or prisoners.

MoreWhy We Should Stop Talking About ROI in Training.

This post was guest-written by Misha McPherson, training program manager for Yammer. This post previously appeared on McPherson's blog, Mindful Learning. Article republished with permission. 

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user ms.akr.