Blinding amounts of Data, No Insight
For the past 6 years, I have worked extensively in assessment, evaluation, and training metrics in highly competitive and highly regulated industries. I have seen literally several thousand of metrics proposed, executed, and reported.
Most of them miss the mark entirely.
Take a hard look at your training metrics, the actual reports and information you provide to your stakeholders. Do they provide evidence of the value that training provides to the business?
That’s a macro-level view. Consider the more micro-level view: Assessment. Does your assessment of an employee check the capability to perform the activities (including cognitive skills like analysis and judgment) or does it test recall of fact (memorization)?
Measurement isn’t the fact of providing data to stakeholders, but a context of the story the data tells, and the insight it provides to stakeholders. Do your metrics inform stakeholders about employee capability against key strategic objectives or reduction of risk? Training was recommended at some point as part of a solution to a business challenge. Does your data report on how training helps the organization respond to the challenge?
Training Hit Counters are so 1990s
A decade ago, putting a validated check in the box for tracking training completion was a bit more of a challenge and an expectation for training metrics. Today, tools largely automate this task, and it’s reporting. We can’t end at this point today. This should be the ground floor of any metrics program.
Yet, I often see a deluge of training activity metrics that don’t correlate in any way to how training is driving the business forward. I often see an infodump of numbers and charts, but little that provides any meaningful insight to stakeholders. And Web2.0 is still falling into the same trap. An impressive growth in communities, membership, or contributions doesn’t necessarily equate to increased capability or effectiveness.
In fact, a stakeholder could conclude that high training activity metrics (whether traditional or Web2.0) means that too much time is being spent training versus doing the work that pays the bills. You need to have evidence to show that the training is strategically aligned with the organization’s mission and goals, and contributes to achieving the company’s objectives. Both at macro- and micro- levels, you should be collecting this data.
What key metrics should you collect for your business?
I could throw out some common key metrics…such as correlations of training completions, key assessment or competency achievement metrics mapped to business figures such as quality measures, sales figures, customer satisfaction ratings or other business analytics. However, I truly cannot tell you what key metrics truly drive your business. This is something you should have insight to as an employee of your business.
Be a Person of the Business First, a Training Person Second
First, I would recommend to build your own business acumen. Do you truly understand the business and how it generates value? Often, training professionals really do not have a core understanding of the business they support. You really should understand the core of the business and how it operates, which critical aspects generate the most value, and which expose the most risk to the business. Spend some time really learning the business.
One of the most powerful methods understand where you stand was shared at an IQPC Corporate University Week conference several years ago. The presenter asked the room, “Do you think of yourself as a training person, or a business person who drives results through training? If someone at a party asked you what industry you worked in, would you say training or the industry that your organization is in?” This is a simple, yet powerful way to initially gauge your alignment.
Work with Stakeholders
Work with key stakeholders to understand the insights they hope to gain from training metrics. Training professionals are accustomed to doing needs analysis of learners for learning objectives. Apply the same type of needs analysis to ensure your assessment and evaluation outputs address the needs of stakeholders. What information do they need? How will it be used? How would they like to receive the information and what frequency is required?
Of all the strategies to gain alignment and garner support for training, this by far has been the most effective. I have never experienced a stakeholder who didn’t genuinely appreciate the attention to their needs. As a result, they get actively involved in shaping the measurement approach. This is a tremendous benefit for two reasons:
- Involving stakeholders in shaping the measurement plan ensures buy-in of the measurement approach. Often, I see training metrics presented that fail to resonate with stakeholder because they disagree with the approach taken to collect or analyze the data. This builds in the support prior to executing the measurement tasks.
- Good measurement requires resources. Often, there are business intelligence analytics or approaches that can benefit from expertise and information that does not reside in the training department. Stakeholders seeking valid measures for training as it relates to sales may coordinate resources from marketing or operations to help map business information and measurement approaches from those departments with training. Stakeholders can help leverage financial forecasting and measurement expertise from other departments to share standards of measuring financials as it relates to training. Getting teams to coordinate will help the data collection and analysis align on common standards accepted by the organization.
Driving Towards Assess-meant and Measure-meant
By building business acumen and actively engaging with stakeholders you help ensure you will deliver information needed by stakeholders. This changes your metrics strategy from tomes of unused and inactionable data to meaningful metrics that stakeholders can use to better understand their business and to make key business decisions. These steps should ensure that your measure meant something to the key audience, the stakeholders. This approach should ensure that what you assess meant something in regards to the employee’s capability to address the challenges of the business.
In future articles, I will be writing about some specific challenges and approaches with assessment and evaluation.