Everybody is trying to do more with less. Companies are scrutinizing every expense and trying to eliminate as much waste as possible. This is true for employee training and development programs, as well. The most common way of measuring effectiveness of these programs has been attendance and end-of-session "smile sheets". I and others have been arguing for years that these are poor proxy indicators of learning, let alone performance. Arif Ahmed writes in TrainingZONE that there are better measures of performance:

With today's economic climate, organisations will increasingly find that the drive for efficiency is pushing performance analytics up the agenda. I believe that it is possible to evolve current measurement processes within an organisation by simply adding a series of 'value metrics' such as:

  • Has the number of customer queries reduced?
  • Has customer satisfaction improved or declined?
  • Has quality of output from staff improved or declined?
  • Is there an alignment of individual and organisational performance?
  • How quickly are technical queries resolved per person?
  • Is customer and staff retention getting better or poorer?

I agree that the answers to these questions might be better indicators of training effectiveness than the more common measures, assuming that these are the goals of the training intervention. But even if these are the intended outcomes, how do you know that it was the training that made the difference? How do you find out what else contributed to the change? And how do you find out what are the unanticipated consequences of training? This is where interviews come in. You need to talk to learners and customers to hear their stories that link training to results. When done with care, this approach can be a valid, credible, and practical way to use information to drive waste out of training and development programs.