A common challenge I am at times asked about is the measurement of the effectiveness of employee development training programs. It is difficult to give a standard answer as there is such a great variance in the training that is available.

Retention of employees is sometimes put forward as a possible measure of training effectiveness of developmental programs, which typically do not show early results. I usually advise against reliance on retention as a success factor. Retention is influenced by more than merely the most recent course that was attended. If retention is to be used as a success factor in program evaluation, the assessment instrument would have to be capable of separating out external factors such as the local job market as well as internal ones such as team cohesion and pay scales.

A further consideration is the quality and competence of those employees who go and those who remain. Typically, the employees who rate as the best performers with the greatest skills have a greater ability to leave the organization, with the less professionally mobile ones, the ones least likely to add value, remaining. I would advise that if you do use retention as a criterion, you should apply it only in relation to your high potential, high achievers.

You need to ask yourself whether retention should be your central measure. The answer lies in what the outcomes are that you expect from the program. Retention of employees is achievable by other, less costly means. If your focus is on creating value for your customers through improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, then employee retention might be a complimentary rather than a primary measure.

The business goals should be the focus of training programs. The Kirkpatrick Four Level Evaluation Model is something I encourage clients to use for the evaluation of training. By tracking the internal career progressions, both promotions and lateral transfers, of employees who have participated in developmental programs, you may have more relevant data compared with considering retention on its own.

In conclusion, consider the desired outcomes for the business: What are the business deliverables? Combine these with some of the longer-term developmental factors I have discussed here and you will be well on your way to designing an evaluative instrument that will provide relevant and valuable information.

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