Measuring the benefit of employee training

Training consistently ranks high on an employee’s wish list and Canadian companies have responded, spending an average of $914 on training per employee per year.

Corporations need to ensure, however, that their investment in training provides value, but it is difficult to measure how effective the training is, and what long-term benefits it brings to the organization.

Research by Lorraine Dyke and Linda Scourtoudis shows that employers can measure the effectiveness of professional development programs, provided they know what questions to ask. Dyke is an associate professor at the Sprott School of Business and the director of the Centre for Research and Education on Women and Work (CREWW), and Scourtoudis is a Sprott PhD candidate.

Using data gathered from two groups of graduates from CREWW’s Management Development Program for Women, Dyke and Scourtoudis found that benefits can last up to eight years after the training is completed, but most evaluations are not conducted in the right way. “The questions managers ask must be as concrete as possible,” explains Dyke.

Most employers currently measure the impact of training by asking employees whether they liked it. Instead of focusing on the emotional level, corporations should ask employees whether they will be able to apply the training in their job.

Dyke and Scourtoudis found that if an employee believes the training is useful, he or she will adopt it in the workplace.

Employers can also support training by providing workplace- based assignments that put training to use.

The results from this study show that employers do not need to conduct lengthy surveys to measure the effectiveness of training. “If employers were to ask employees if the program was useful and whether they apply the training on the job, they would get results that are similar to a multi-year study,” notes Dyke.

Putting the research to work

1. Employers should invest in professional development programs that include workplace- based assignments.

2. Employers need to ask questions that focus on the usefulness of the training rather than on whether an employee liked it.

Questions asked subsequent to training should include:

  • How valuable was the program content to your current position?
  • How pertinent were the assignments to the work you have done since the training?
  • How would you rate the relevance of in-class work to the work you have done since completing the training?

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