In 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a ruling on measuring HR capital. The ruling applies to all US companies issuing stocks, bonds, or derivatives. Companies previously only needed to report the number of employees, but now they need to report measures related to such things as “attraction, development, and retention of personnel.”
This put training and development professionals under increasing pressure to measure its impact. After all, if people are our most important asset, as many companies say, then what are they doing to get, keep, maintain, and improve their people assets? The SEC has been vague about what measures to report, so the industry has plenty of freedom to explore what these professionals think are helpful measures. Reporting such measures can be easy to do if it’s done the old way.
The old training and development way is to deliver one course for each skill gap or competency. A standard measure would be to track the number of employees who took a class and divide by the number of employees who could have or should have taken it. Voilà! A usage measure!
Or how about this one: Divide the number of actual attendees by the seats available for a measure of usage plus efficiency. And last, but not least, use the smile sheet to ask “How much did you like this class?” or (for a more progressive measure) “How much will this class help you on the job?”
That’s the old way. Does it work? Not well in today’s world in which we aren’t creating peanut butter training anymore. The new SEC rules elevate the focus on human capital ROI and other measures that help assess the value of the company. Modern learning, emphasized by new approaches like the learning cluster design model, drives the need for new measures because training and development professionals no longer deliver one course for each skill gap. Modern L&D organizations are actively using spaced learning and multiple learning assets to develop a single skill or capability in their talent. Multiple assets provide learners with what they can learn when, where, and how they need to do it.
The old measures simply do not work when dealing with multiple assets over spaced learning time. We propose a more modern approach. Measure behavior change in the workplace.
Most training and development professionals stick to measures that can be done within the confines of the class or course because it’s easier to get these measures and influence them. But it’s only when impact in the workplace is measured that training and development can truly show how we positively affect the business and our learners. Taking an impact approach supports HR teams’ goals of transparently sharing the value of a company’s talent. Additionally, this proof of positive impact given meaning to training and development professionals’ work because they desire to make a difference and help people.
But how does this happen? It starts by asking “What behavior changes can we expect to see in the workplace after an employee takes this training?” The learning cluster design model suggests asking this question before design begins; but it can be asked of existing courses too. Next, looking across the various learning assets that are being delivered and determine how you can “see” these changes. Consider what you can learn about behavior change from online discussion forums, job aids, or other asset types. Look for quantitative and qualitative data (numbers and stories). While each situation is unique, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Do follow-up surveys asking for self-reported changes over time.
- Ask managers to report behavior at regular checkpoints.
- Do regular walk arounds (or ask training sponsors to do this).
- Capture learners’ training progress and success stories as they share on asynchronous community platforms and report numbers of stories.
A few tips. Response rates after training are typically at 10 percent. You can improve this by withholding completion certification until surveys are returned or adding badges for surveys.
Modern measures take a bit more thought than old measures, but today’s technology makes it easier, and our desire for purpose in our work makes the effort worth it.
What other ideas do you have to help us “see” behavior change after training?