Each year, companies spend tens of thousands of dollars on training that doesn’t deliver measurable results: employees don’t perform better, processes aren’t more efficient than before, communication is still poor, service delivery doesn’t improve, and customers are still dissatisfied. How can we ensure our training programs produce the outcomes we expect? How can we make them more effective and efficient? How can we measure the results?
In this article, I will share some of the lessons I’ve learned in delivering business simulations around the world, as well as some of the key success factors for delivering and designing good training. We’ll be focusing on three key roles that have a responsibly for offering, delivering and executing successful training programs with planned outcomes.
Managers are responsible for ensuring their teams have the right competencies and for setting performance standards. Managers are also responsible for facilitating the transfer of knowledge (translating theory into practice) and ensuring training programs have the desired effects.
Human resources (HR) departments are responsible for ensuring that training is well designed and that managers are working on maximizing training outcomes. HR is also responsible for ensuring that vendors propose and deliver effective and efficient training programs.
Training vendors are responsible for offering and designing effective and efficient training programs that solve their clients’ problems
The Eight Fields Model
Kessels and Smit developed their so-called Eight Fields Model back in the 1990s. This easy-to-understand model can be used to help HR experts design effective and efficient training programs. It consists of two major components: wishes and measures.
The Wish column consists of the four steps involved in identifying learning needs and designing learning interventions.
Problem/Goal: What problem do we want to solve with the learning intervention? What goal do we want to achieve?
Wish Situation: What is the desirable way of working? How do we want to see people working once the problem has been solved or the goal has been achieved?
Competencies: What knowledge, behaviors, skills, and attitudes do we need to develop to solve the problem/achieve the goal?
Learning Intervention: What learning intervention will develop the needed competencies to solve the problem/achieve the goal?
The Measure column consists of four levels based on the Kirkpatrick Model.
Results: A description of the target result that will indicate that the problem has been solved, as well as the metrics we will use to measure it (i.e., a 40% improvement in first call resolution, 90% of all calls correctly routed to second level, a 40% increase in customer satisfaction).
Behaviors: A description of how we’re going to measure the behaviors in relation to the desired state. Are second-line support engineers documenting solutions, and are they training the support employees? Are support employees creating and improving their own routing tables? Are support employees keeping customers informed about the status of calls?
Prove/Test: A description of the exercises, questions, or tests we’re going to perform to verify that employees can reproduce the competencies they learned during training. For example, during help desk training, the students participate in an exercise where they’re asked to analyze, document, and share solutions. In another simulation, students use routing tables and knowledge articles to solve incidents more quickly and more accurately, and increase customer satisfaction.
Learning Process: A description of the tools and metrics we’ll use to monitor and measure the learning process and the success of the intervention. For example, we can use questionnaires to survey students about their satisfaction with the training, the dynamics of the training, the exercises, or the instructor.
Effective Training and Real Results
Based on the Eight Fields Model, there are five key success factors for delivering effective training and achieving real results. First, we must investigate the real problem. Next, we must identify the characteristics of the ideal working state and select key performance indicators that will prove we’ve solved the problem. Then, we must establish a process for applying training outcomes to day-to-day work. Finally, we must measure the new behavior to determine whether or not we’ve achieved the desired results.
You don’t need sophisticated monitoring tools to measure the ROI of training or gauge the success of a particular training program.
Each of the three key roles—manager, HR, and training vendor—will apply these success factors to develop effective training programs. Let’s look at each one individually.
Investigate the Real Problem
As a manager, you should help your employees define the real problem before you approve a training request. Before you send your staff off for training, you should first ask them, “What is the problem we need to solve?” Don’t accept vague or general answers like “I want to improve the help desk.” That isn’t a problem, but this is: “My help desk is under pressure. We have a heavy workload, and the information in our tool is often incomplete. Because of this we aren’t resolving incidents as quickly as we should be, we aren’t able to resolve repeat incidents efficiently, and we aren’t able to keep our customers informed. As a result, customer satisfaction is down.”
When managers request funds for training programs, make sure they can identify the problem training is intended to solve and the markers that will demonstrate training was effective (i.e., solved the problem).
When customers call to request training, don’t ask them what the problem is. Instead, ask them about their expectations for the training program: What is it you want your employees to learn? What competencies do you want your employees to develop? What behaviors do you want to see after training has been completed, and why? The answers to those questions will help you choose or build the most effective training program for the customer. You may also help the customer identify additional training needs.
Proof of Solution
As a manager, you should know what you want in terms of team and individual performance. So, define the key performance indicators that will prove the problem has been solved: decreased stress, increased first contact resolution, improved routing, increased customer satisfaction, etc.
Challenge your managers to think about the results they want to achieve. If they don’t have desired, measurable results in mind, it will be hard to design an effective training program that focuses on the right outcomes and generates a return on the investment.
As a training vendor, your goal is to design a training program that helps the customer solve real problems. Discuss the customer’s expected results and suggest ways to measure the outcomes of the training intervention. Advise the customer to consider transfer actions to ensure that what’s learned in training is actually applied in the working environment.
Characteristics of the Ideal Working State
You should have an idea of what you think the characteristics of your employees’ ideal working state are or how you want to see them executing their work tasks. You’re also responsible for supporting them, helping them achieve results, and making them more effective and efficient. If there’s a problem in the workplace, you must not only have a clear idea of how you want them to work differently, you must also share it with your employees. This is the Wish Situation, and it may look something like this: “I see first- and second-level support working together on improving routing tables and developing, documenting, and sharing solutions.” This kind of description will help HR or a training vendor identify the competencies your team already has and the ones it needs to develop.
Conduct sessions to help managers and their teams articulate the Wish Situation. By brining those groups together, we increase the chance that the knowledge transfer will be a success, and we encourage buy-in, commitment, and ownership. Make sure that you follow up with the managers by asking for progress reports. Adjust the program, if need be, or offer coaching or additional training interventions.
Offer to conduct a workshop to help the customer define “desirable behaviors.” This not only supports the customer, it also helps you design an effective training program. You’ll also know whether it would be appropriate to offer coaching and follow-up sessions to support the transfer of knowledge.
Apply the Training Outcomes
This is the most critical success factor. Real learning takes place when employees apply the lessons they learned to their day-to-day work and observe results. Very often, managers and employees focus too much on earning the certificate and not enough on applying what was learned.
Organize and facilitate the transfer of knowledge by creating new tasks and activities for your employees after they return from training. Ask them what kind of support they need to apply what they learned, and provide them with feedback to motivate them to demonstrate new behaviors and solve problems. Above all, give them time to practice and learn during work. Keep the Wish Situation in mind and monitor progress toward the problem’s solution.
You’re responsible for monitoring the training program’s ROI. Ask your managers for progress reports that demonstrate knowledge transfer and progress toward the ideal working state. Provide coaching on this, if your managers need it. You could also suggest that they include the new behaviors in appraisal meetings and personal development plans. You could then ask employees to document activities and results in their personal development plans and present their progress every few weeks.
Provide managers with coaching or some form of special training to help them help their employees transfer knowledge.
Measure the New Behaviors
You don’t need sophisticated monitoring tools to measure the ROI of training or gauge the success of a particular training program. We worked with one of our clients to create a thirty-question survey to measure progress toward the Wish Situation. The client’s 160 employees were asked to answer each question on a scale of 1–10 (low to high). Several questions addressed the issue of whether or not everyone was following the new processes. Employees rated their own compliance highly, but tended to rate their colleagues and managers much lower.
We evaluated the outcomes and tasked the management team with improving compliance over a period of four weeks. They committed to leading by example to show that they were committed to the new way of working. With this extra effort and focus, by the time of the next meeting, there had been a marked improvement.
Getting More Value from Our Training Budgets
If we really want to get more value from our training investments, we need to start acting differently. And “we” means everyone involved in training. We need to focus on the Eight Fields Model, on turning knowledge into action/practice, on using simple tools to measure outcomes. We need to develop more careful, thought-out, and clever training programs that integrate different methods of learning, encourage the transfer of learning and skills into the workplace, and, above all, focus on real problems that need solving.
Jan Schilt is the managing director of GamingWorks. Jan has twenty years of experience in the field of education and learning, and he has developed and delivered training programs and business simulations for hundreds organizations around the world. Together with his business partners and industry experts, Jan coauthored
ABC of ICT: An Introduction , which focuses on improving attitude, behavior, and culture in IT departments.