Better training outcomes

Aim higher, be better

Strategy in ChangeAs an experienced trainer I am often frustrated by the poor (or most likely non-existent) post training activity of the candidates which should be consolidating their learning during the course.  Why would any manager invest in training their staff if their organisation is not going to benefit from it? Well it turns out that most managers do exactly that. This blog will look at what outcomes are available, what needs to be done to achieve them, and how C4CM can help you aim higher and get better returns on your training investment.

C4CM provides certification for learning programmes. Our new accredited set allows us to distinguish between training outcomes and provides managers with evidence of the effectiveness of their investment.

Training Outcomes

The most popular model for training outcomes is that developed by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1954 and finally published in 1994. Kirkpatrick proposed 4 levels of outcome as follows:

  1. Reaction of the student: what the student thought and felt. This is often assessed by a traditional course happy sheet (delegate feedback). This is student centric and gives no idea if the student was even awake during the course.
  2. Learning: an increase in knowledge or capability. This can be assessed by a knowledge or skills test at the end of the course. Note that a student loses about 90% of any knowledge or skill every week after a course if that knowledge or skill is not used. Thus most post course tests are an indicator of potential, not actual, impact.
  3. Behaviour: a change in behaviour of the student as a result of using the knowledge and skills in the organisation. Because the student practices what they have learned the knowledge and skills become embedded. This is usually tested by the student providing evidence of application and often reflection on their experience.
  4. Results: the impact on the organisation which demonstrates (measurably) the return on investment. This requires strategic management and alignment of training as part of a larger organisation change initiative; it is quite rare.

Donald KirkpatrickLevel 1 outcomes are ideal for those organisations that use training as a reward for good behaviour; it tells the manager how much the employee enjoyed the reward. Level 2 is the usual level most training aims for; and for the trainer it is the most frustrating. At level 2 the employee gets a badge for the CV (assuming the test has some recognised credibility); but the manager gets a wasted training budget and a high opportunity cost for the employee time. This is because most managers (and their supporting organisation — HR) do not have any idea or plans to utilise the knowledge and skills after the training course which might lead to a higher level of outcome. It takes managerial effort to get beyond level 2.

Level 3 outcomes require the student to use the knowledge and especially the skills learned during the training in their organisation as quickly as possible. Ideally training is arranged to coincide with the opportunity. Managers then review the results and create further learning opportunities to apply knowledge and skills with reflection and coaching. C4CM play a key role here because our training assessment is based on evidence of application in the workplace. Thus a C4CM certificate means training outcomes at level 3 have been achieved. Across an organisation C4CM certificates demonstrate a proven capability resulting from training and thus a tangible return on investment for the organisation. An organisation can use such accreditation as a measurable level 3 outcome.

Level 4 requires an organisation to have decided on clear measurable benefits to be achieved from training investment which are aligned to strategic objectives. They must have put in place intermediate measures (such as C4CM certificates achieved) and clear impact from training on the organisation capability. This level of strategic thinking and measurement is rare. It implies a level of organisation maturity managed by less than 10% of organisations. We know this because of the measures of successful change. Less than10% of organisations consistently achieve the benefits they intended from change initiatives. The figure of unsuccessful change initiatives at 70% hasn’t changed in the last 10 years since the figures first started being consistently reported. For these organisations we have to say that most of their training is wasted; except for the individuals that get a badge for their CV to get a better paid job — usually in a different organisation.

Here’s how you get better training outcomes

To get better training outcomes each manager needs to take ownership of their training investment and outcomes.

  • Aim higher than Kirkpatrick level 2. If your training provider can’t do better than a post course knowledge test then find one who can (see our web site).
  • Decide what competences you need your staff to be capable of and then align the training with the opportunity to use the new knowledge and skills. This will mean learning in small doses: say a 1 day course on risk management before analysing risks — rather than a 5 day course on project management from which most of the knowledge will be lost before it can be used. The C4CM modules are designed for this approach.
  • Have measures of better outcomes and benefits for your organisation and your staff. Take baseline measures and measure again after the training has had time to be effective. You need data to get better. Talk to us about personal and organisational measures that can help you understand where you are and where you need to be.

Better training outcomes and return on training investment require more from managers than choosing courses. Managers must learn to aim higher and achieve more. Are you ready to go? Contact us for more information.

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