How to Demonstrate the Value of PM Training - a 4 step process
Many businesses struggle with demonstrating that they are getting their money’s worth in sending employees to training classes. This question can be applied to project management training as well as any other type of business training. You know the cost side of training too well. But how do you tell what the business value is?
"All organizations train their people, and most spend significant sums doing so. Yet they generally don’t have any idea whether they’re getting any business value from training. Beyond teaching new employees the specifics of their jobs, most companies train staff in areas such as leadership, communications, performance management, or lean operations. But they typically measure training’s impact by conducting surveys of attendees or counting how many employees complete courses rather than by assessing whether those employees learned anything that improved business performance."
- McKinsey Quarterly "Putting a Value on Training"
Unfortunately, many organizations determine value is by simply asking the trainee whether he or she thinks the class was valuable. This is very subjective and doesn’t allow the organization to really understand and quantify the benefits of the training. Ideally, we should be able to do some type of cost/benefit analysis of the training programs.
A More Rigorous Approach
There is a 4 step process to more rigorously determine the value received for your training dollars. It requires more preparation and will take up more of that most precious commodity – time. But I believe it makes sense as it should give you a much better feel for the value that you are receiving from training.
First, the trainee and their manager should meet a few weeks before the training is scheduled to make sure the trainee is ready for the class. In that meeting identify the opportunities where the trainee can apply the new skills on their job once completed. This information should be documented so that it can be compared with a post-class assessment done later.
When the training begins each of the trainees should complete an initial survey showing their specific knowledge level of the class material. This will serve as a baseline.
A week or two after the class, the trainee will complete a post-training survey demonstrating their current knowledge level in the subject. For the most part, it should approximate the initial survey from activity #2 above. This is compared to the initial survey to provide a sense for how much the trainee learned - at least in their own opinion. If this survey comes out close to the original version, it indicates that the training may not have been very effective. You would expect that the post-class survey would show a noticeable improvement.
Here is the key final step. A few months after the class, the trainee and their manager meet again for a post-class assessment, which is a follow-up to activity #1 above. In this discussion, the trainee and manager discuss the value of the class, and whether the trainee has been able to apply the new skills. In fact, the training may have been superb, but if there have been no opportunities to apply the new skills, then the business value will be marginal. The trainee and manager can then discuss the business value that was gained by applying the new skills on the job.
In most training classes today, the trainee completes the class feedback for the benefit of the training company, and then tells his or her manager how good the class was. This superficial feedback is all that is available to gauge business value. However, the real test of business value is whether the class resulted in an increased skill level that can be applied to the job to make a person more productive. This cannot be determined immediately after a class. The only way to determine business value is to determine in the months after the class whether or not the training has actually been applied on the job. If you capture this information on all your classes, you will get a much better and more fact-based view of whether the classes you pay for are providing business value to your company.
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