The impact of training is increased when we hold trainees, their bosses/supervisors, and the organization as a whole accountable for results. We do this by measuring results and identifying those things in the organization that contribute to achieving positive results, as well as those things that get in the way of achieving the results we want. Without accountability, it’s like playing golf in the dark. Players don’t know if they hit the ball towards the pin and they don’t know if they got the ball in the hole, and, after awhile, nobody cares.

Sometimes we forget that the power of training is not in the elegance of design, nor in the charisma of facilitators, nor the enthusiasm of participants, nor even the self-report of learners. Rather, it is in the difference that training makes in achieving important business results for the organization. The critical question is not, “What do participants think of the program?” The critical question is, “How does training contribute to achieving business goals?” See Sarah Boehle’s excellent analysis of these issues in Training Magazine.

The process of holding trainees accountable can add tremendously to their learning. Simply by asking people questions about what they learned and how they are applying this, learners think about their experiences and reflect on what they learned and what they’ve done with their new knowledge and skills. This inquiry can renew individual commitment to improving performance that might have waned in the face of work responsibilities and job pressures. We have found that asking managers about the impact of a leadership development program they attended is like a jump-start for action. They frequently remember changes they had intended to make after the program and then they re-commit once again to making those changes.

One of the methods used to measure results is the Success Case Method. This was developed by Robert O. Brinkerhoff and is described in his book, The Success Case Method: Find Out Quickly What’s Working and What’s Not. This method involves creating an impact map that specifies the intended outcomes of the training program, identifying who has and has not been successful in applying learning from that program, and then interviewing a small sample of these two groups. The products of this process are stories that reveal the nature of alignment between what was learned and business results. These stories can also expose the expectations that learners had before, during, and after training and how the alliance between learner and boss/supervisor affected results.