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As a former trainer and consultant for many companies, I’ve had the opportunity to observe the biggest problems they tend to encounter regarding training performance firsthand. Namely, a lot of money and effort gets invested in training, but it’s often unclear how to demonstrate the return on investment (ROI).
Companies also expected major improvements in job performance, without knowing the training path leading to this result. And some had unrealistic expectations, like looking for training to drive significant improvements in their bottom line, without aligning their training plan with their business goals in the first place.
So, where do we start? Is there a secret recipe to knowing if your corporate training is working?
Not exactly. A good trainer will tell you that business goals translated into training objectives leads to improved results — whether that’s greater employee satisfaction, behavior change or increased job performance. The metrics and processes are unique to each company. But without having the right objectives and a way to measure them, evaluating corporate learning programs are pure guesswork.
The solution? Aided by people, process and technology, you can set and track training objectives and measure results.
Here are four questions to ask (and ways to answer them) to evaluate if your corporate training is working:
1. Does the training program cover what employees need to know?
Ensuring that your training program covers each learning objective and key skill may seem like an obvious step — but trust me, it’s very easy to leave important competencies out. This oversight can be due to different factors, including a faulty needs assessment process and pressure for instructors to prioritize certain skills over others, due to time and money constraints.
An important trend toward “competency-based learning” (emphasizing the demonstration of concrete and measurable skills) can help drive balance. Companies can add their curriculums to their learning platforms and then tag each resource, module or assessment with a certain competency that it should cover.
For instance, if an employee needs to handle difficult customer support requests (main learning objective), they must know how to respond patiently (a key competency). Then, the training modules that teach learners how to deal with this issue are tagged with the corresponding competency.
It’s easy for companies to see whether all competencies related to the training program are covered, as well as identify gaps in training.
2. Is training performance up to par?
Certain metrics, such as the number of learners who completed an online course and their assessment scores, apply to any type of training program. These are the first indicators you should look at, since low participation rates are a predictor of subpar training performance.
Combine that with a competency-based approach to see if your training covers all bases, and evaluate training performance based on how well employees have mastered key skills.
For instance, say a learner completes a module and scores above 80% on the related quiz. Since both the module and quiz measure a related competency, the instructor can easily track learner progress and see that they’re on track.
On the other hand, if the learner scores below 50% (or another designated level), the instructor can intervene with additional learning material or activities. Instructors can also see an individual’s or team’s overall performance based on competencies, and decide whether the training program needs adjustment.
3. Is employee feedback positive and accurate?
This seems like an obvious statement, but bear with me. At many companies, a problem isn’t necessarily a lack of employee feedback on training programs; it’s that companies don’t ask the right questions.
For a long time, I used reactive surveys in my training programs, giving participants a questionnaire to fill out after a training session. These short feedback forms are supposed to measure learner satisfaction, but what they do, in reality, is gather impressions: How well did it go? What were a few key takeaways and suggestions for improving future sessions?
I’m not saying the subjective opinions of learners don’t matter, but they tend to be superficial since people usually want to move onto something else after a learning activity is over.
And while learners may remember a few key session takeaways, it doesn’t mean that they will apply them in the future. So, measuring learner knowledge through employee surveys after the training can help you see the bigger picture.
Follow-up quizzes are also very useful for measuring behavior change. For instance, you can send a follow-up quiz a month after the course has ended, having employees answer questions about how much new knowledge and skills they’ve used during this time and whether they still remember important parts. If the feedback is still positive and learners feel confident about applying new skills, you’ll know that your training program is doing its job.
4. Is employee engagement with training soaring?
If we look beyond measurable results, there are other secondary benefits of training. Employees are more confident in their abilities, satisfied with their jobs and view the company more positively.
They’re also less likely to suffer from work-related stress since they have the resources to do their jobs well. Another key indicator is that they simply enjoy their learning journey, and it’s not considered an onerous task.
Companies can gauge how much learners enjoy their training based on engagement, participation rates, platform activity and even their interactions with other learners. Do they participate in forums and groups? Are they willing to leave course reviews without being asked?
Positive learner behavior during and after training means that they’re finding it useful — so it’s a good indicator that training is working.
Like many business processes today, training is also data-driven. You can use training analytics to assess your program’s efficacy.
Moreover, instructors don’t have to become data analysts to know what works, why it works and how to improve employee training. Even managers who are not trained instructors can understand if the program covers all the skills employees need, find skill gaps and determine the effect of learning interventions on employee engagement.
The main takeaway is that knowing if your corporate training is working or not saves you a lot of hassle, time and money in the long run — giving you confidence to tweak your training strategy, discard programs that aren’t working and create even better ones .