Soft skills training is “squishy” and “intangible”. These are typical challenges I hear from clients who are looking to connect their training investment to bottom line figures. After my last post on Maximising the Impact of Training, it seems fitting to answer the questions around how companies can actually measure the impact of training.
Measuring the bottom line impact of soft skills training remains one of the toughest challenges facing learning and development, I believe you need to start with the basics and I use the Why, How, What approach:
Some Learning and Development decision makers come to us knowing what they want: a course on communication styles for our middle managers; a coaching module for our executives etc. But to measure the impact of the course they need to understand WHY they want what they want: “because our line workers do not understand their roles and expectations well enough” “because we are not developing our senior managers well enough”.
Often L&D decision makers aren’t clear why they want, what they want and you can’t measure what you can’t identify. Training needs start with a reason, and that reason is the first step in measuring impact.
If the answer to WHY? “I just want to get my people out for a day as a reward for completing a tough quarter, and they will feel good about a leadership course” – you don’t need training, you want a paid holiday for the staff and the training budget isn’t meant for this. If you can identify a real reason why you should train your employees, you then need to ask…
Ask yourself HOW you know you need a training course. It may sound obvious, but, what indications do you have that a training need exists, what KPI’s demonstrate the need? “Our 360 reports show that our managers are having trouble communicating with their subordinates, a course on communications might be helpful here“ or “We are hiring too many senior managers externally and we are losing too many middle managers to other companies, maybe we need a course for our executives around coaching as a development tool which should help”. Understanding the business reasons behind your training need gives you the key to measuring it – so always ask HOW you can tell your people need this.
It is a short step from identifying your business objectives to determining what the metrics are around them: what percentage of 360 reports showed negative indicators on communications? and what was the impact on productivity? Missed deadlines? Product Quality? Staff turnover? How many roles were filled externally last year? What percentage would be healthy? How many candidates are internal referrals? Choosing WHAT to measure is easier if you know WHY you are training your people and HOW it will impact the business.
Measuring the impact of training means simply getting a baseline state on the WHAT metrics and following up with them after the trained behaviours are embedded. If you can’t answer the WHY, HOW and WHAT questions around training, you won’t be able to measure the impact of your investment and you might consider taking your staff bowling.