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The Real Value of Training
Measuring and Analyzing Business Outcomes and the Quality of ROI
By RON DREW STONE
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2011Ron Drew Stone
All rights reserved.
Talking about Performance Results
Yes, this book is about measurement and evaluation. The process of measurement and evaluation actually begins up front, when a training professional partners with a client or sponsor to address the performance issues and expectations involved in a specific training solution. Prior to negotiating and designing a learning engagement, the professional and the client or sponsor must agree about the end in mind. When there is a failure to identify the end in mind for a training solution up front, the alignment of the solution with the business is left to chance. It is also difficult to successfully measure and evaluate a training solution whose expected outcome has not been defined.
VIEWING RESULTS THROUGH A PERFORMANCE-CENTERED LENS
When they are addressing the needs of workplace performers, training professionals often focus too much of their attention on learning and not enough on performance. Perhaps we should emphasize that the focus on learning is taking place at the wrong time. The time to identify a solution for operating deficiencies or strategic issues is after the performance factors and root cause have been properly identified, not before. Sometimes the client has done this prior to calling the training department, but sometimes she has not.
Training as a Single Solution Is Gone Forever
There was a time when a training solution consisted of a few learning strategies aimed at facilitating the knowledge and skills required to deal with a specific performance need or deficiency. These isolated "training-only" solutions were designed and implemented in the belief and hope that training alone was enough to bring about the desired results. Often, only a limited effort was made to seek reinforcement from management, and only rarely was attention given to such things as companion strategies. Because this procedure was rarely challenged and because evidence of results was rarely required or presented, this became the routine way in which training was delivered in many organizations.
Today, some managers, clients, and others still believe that training can be successfully delivered in this isolated way—no management reinforcement, no companion actions and strategies, no bundled solutions, just a training course by itself, doing its performance thing. Send people to the training room or the desktop, and when they return to the work setting, things will improve. Training professionals today have experienced enough frustration to know that this is not the case. The unfortunate truth is, training as a single solution is gone forever. The performance-centered framework challenges those involved in identifying solutions to think about and analyze all the relevant performance readiness factors beyond learning.
The framework that many training professionals have historically used in evaluating the need for and fit of a training solution is too narrow. Many of them have relied on Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation as a performance framework. This limited view places a narrow focus on learning (Kirkpatrick's level 2) as the solution to a performance issue. Many potential performance factors are overlooked when the training is focused only on "knowledge and skills."
When a client or sponsor requests a training or development program, it is natural to launch into a conversation about the learning because that is why the training department has received the call. But training professionals must resist closing the deal on a learning solution before sufficient conversation (and perhaps even a little rapid research) to identify the deficient performance issues and the root cause of those issues has taken place. Only then can expectations be clarified and a proper solution (nonlearning as well as learning) be identified, designed, and delivered.
A Twenty-First-Century Performance-Centered View
The training professional should partner with the client and use a simple performance framework to enable discussion about how a requested training solution will address specific performance needs. A performance framework provides a context that helps to
Frame the right questions to identify the desired performance, analyze performance deficiencies, and identify the root cause of the problems.
Identify performance objectives and measures for projects and performance solutions.
Communicate with clients, team members, training suppliers, and others to negotiate expectations and determine readiness solutions and strategies (learning and nonlearning) aimed at closing the performance gap.
Figure 1.1 illustrates a performance-centered framework that can be used as a tool to facilitate a performance discussion, while at the same time assuring the client that his needs will be met.
The three components of the performance-centered framework (business outcome, execution, and readiness) are linked within a relationship—that is, performance readiness should influence the desired execution, and execution, in turn, should influence the desired business outcome. Without going into how to conduct a needs analysis, which is beyond the scope of this book, let's elaborate on the relationship among these three components. This should help in understanding how to reframe a discussion about learning into a focused discussion about performance. The performance discussion should focus on business outcome and execution and eventually lead back to decisions on designing, delivering, and supporting an appropriate solution. The idea is to move up and down the framework until all relevant questions are answered.
Business Outcome This component refers to how a business or government agency will benefit when the performers involved execute as expected. Business outcomes include improvements in key performance indicators and other business measures that represent the end in mind, such as
Reducing the cost of doing business
Improving the profitability of the business (for nonprofits, diversity and sustainability of funding)
Improving the quality (effectiveness) of the organization's business products, processes, and services
Increasing the output (quantity) of products and services (sales, products manufactured, products delivered, services provided, orders filled, and so on)
Reducing the time it takes to complete tasks, complete business processes, and identify and correct problem areas (efficiency)
Reducing cycle time to close sales or to improve service to the customer
Sustaining or exceeding the service levels expected by customers
There are additional categories of business outcome measures and many measures within each category, depending on how they are uniquely defined by a particular organization. Business outcomes should be the ultimate goal of any training program, development program, or performance solution.
In a perfect world, when a client requests training, she will identify a specific deficiency in business outcomes as the driving force for the request. However, the world is not perfect. Sometimes the focus is only on the training as an event. This is the worst possible scenario because the training professional must have the skill to move the conversation toward performance, sometimes having to overcome client resistance. Other times, the client may focus on his team's lack of execution in the work setting. This is a good thing because it is often easy to address execution and then move the conversation toward business outcomes and then back to readiness or learning.&L
Excerpted from The Real Value of Training by RON DREW STONE. Copyright © 2011 by Ron Drew Stone. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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