HR struggles to prove the value of training

HR practitioners are dissatisfied with their efforts to show the value of learning, and perceive the involvement of line managers as the key to success, according to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication, Employment Review.

Most learning and development practitioners admitted that quantifying the true value of training was not easy. According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 80% of HR practitioners believed their training and development delivered more value to their organisation than they could demonstrate.

Similarly, not a single respondent taking part in the Employment Review survey believed that evaluation of training was ever entirely successful, although most (42 of the 55 organisations that evaluated training) believed it had been fairly successful.

The survey also reveals that buy-in from managers can be a big help when trying to assess the value of learning.

When asked about the most important contributors to successful evaluation, a majority (28) said co-operation from line managers was important, and 20 said management backing was the key. Careful planning was seen as a major influence at 18 organisations, and efficient processes and tools at 18. Sixteen respondents said success was in part due to buy-in from trainees.

The findings are based on a survey of 62 employers, 55 of which carry out training evaluation. Twenty-one are large employers with more than 1,000 employees, 24 employ between 250 and 1,000, while 17 employ less than 250. In total, the companies employ about 157,000 people.

Line managers hold the key to success…

The most common method used to evaluate training is still the post-course questionnaire (or ‘happy sheet’), the Employment Review survey shows. This was used by 46 respondents. Input from line managers about members of their team after training was also popular, used by 40.

But the use of questionnaires at training events was considered overall to be the least effective method of evaluating the course, according to the survey. Conversely, line manager feedback is believed to be the most effective means by the largest group of respondents.

Other widely used tools are employee attitude surveys (33), monitoring of appraisal results (25), pre-training questionnaires (24), and follow-up questionnaires sent out more than a week after an event (24).

Twenty-one organisations monitored the qualifications gained within the workforce, 20 assessed individual training action plans, 17 used customer surveys to monitor training activities, while 16 monitored employee test results.

Observing participants at work was a rarer form of evaluation (used by 14 employers), as were focus groups (11) and interviews carried out directly with trainees (11).

… but time waits for no training initiative

A lack of available time and poor buy-in from line managers are both common issues hampering the ultimate success of evaluation, according to the Employment Review survey. Thirty-eight employers indicate that time was a major factor and 31 saw the gap in line manager involvement as a problem.

Inadequate evaluation tools and/or processes hinder progress, and 14 say difficulties arise from a lack of know-how, and 12 say a lack of funds is considered to be a spanner in the works. Just one organisation says there were no barriers hampering the success of an evaluation.

by Charlotte Wolff


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