Design Training Programs For Measurable Business Impact

Designing Training Programs For Business Impact
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Summary: Learn how you can design training programs for a measurable business impact and how critical it is in our world today.

Designing Training Programs

Design your training programs for measurable business impact by beginning with the end in mind. That process can start through:

  • Proactively planning with your business
  • Proactively auditing your business
  • Reactively responding to your business

Proactively Plan With Your Business

There are regular times each year a business puts out its plan for the next year. Use a tool called a line-of-sight document—also called an impact map. Within that tool, in the first column, enter the strategic business objectives, in the next column enter the metrics as to how the objectives will be measured, the next column enter the performance (the observable behaviors) that will take place to achieve that those metrics, and then in the final column list the competencies (knowledge/skills/attitudes) needed to perform those behaviors.

You can then ensure you have existing learning resources for anyone with gaps in those competencies. If not, proceed through the vendor selection process if you need to buy new learning solutions or the ADDIE/SAM processes if you need to build them internally.

Proactively Audit Your Business

Throughout the year you can audit functions with your business to uncover and address additional training needs.

Begin in the analysis phase of ADDIE. However, if you’re doing it right, your analysis needs to be more robust and broader than usual. You need to use your broader organizational development (aka performance consulting) skillset for analysis. Begin with a gap analysis. In any business function, identify the current versus the desired business metrics. Many times there is a gap. Also, capture those metrics—you’ll want to use them again later.

Proceed to a cause analysis. This can be as simple as asking everyone involved in the poor performance (and not just a single leader) the five whys, such as: Why is that performance not up to the desired level? Why is the answer you just gave me happening? Why is that happening? And so on. Causes usually are the wrong goal and/or standard, not enough time nor means (e.g., processes, software, etc.), wrong or lack of motivation, or gaps in the employees’ competencies (knowledge/skills/attitudes). This last cause is where training becomes the solution. Proceed with the full analysis process, create a line-of-sight document, and then the buy/build process for any learning solutions as needed. Know that almost all gaps have multiple causes, so make sure all are addressed.

Reactively Respond To Your Business

Sometimes business needs arise outside of your planning and auditing process, maybe strategic objectives, metrics, or behaviors changed. This creates an ad hoc request from the business for your services. Proceed with the full analysis process, create a line-of-sight document, and then the buy/build process for any learning solutions as needed.


Regardless of whether you are planning with, auditing, or responding to your business, you need to measure/evaluate all learning solutions at some level. For every learning event, you should measure who is participating, the course’s and any presenter’s effectiveness, and how much learning took place. About three months after the learning event, for most courses, you should measure the on-the-job application of the new knowledge/skills. And then six months after the learning event, for just the most costly and/or highly visible courses, you should measure the business metrics/impact and also form an overall ROI of the effort. There are best practices that guide all of this.

Important: After measuring, compare the new business metrics to the ones originally identified at the very beginning of the process—in the line-of-sight document or analysis. Identify whether you’ve obtained the desired metrics and closed the gap. If not, you can then use the different measurements you’ve taken throughout the process to go back and see where the "weak link" is and address it.

Other Important Factors

There are other important factors required to design programs for measurable business impact:

  • Other-than-training solutions for performance
  • Full-learning transfer model
  • Change management best practices
  • Keeping up with best practices

Other-Than-Training Solutions For Performance

As previously mentioned, performance gaps usually have multiple causes needing multiple solutions. Training is the solution for only about 20% of what affects performance. You need to also be skilled in and provide (or have others who are skilled in and provide) the solutions that affect the remaining 80% of performance. Also, as previously mentioned, these additional solutions are provided in the practice of "organizational development." Such solutions include having the right goal, to the correct standard, enough time, correct motivations, and the needed means (e.g., processes, software, etc.)—and other solutions affecting those basics at the enterprise, department, team, and individual level.

Full-Learning Transfer Model

80% of one-time learning events completely fail to improve performance to desired levels—and the 20% that do succeed only move performance half of where you want it to be. You need to overcome this by using the full-learning transfer model which uses multiple learning activities.

One way through this model is for the learner and the leader-of-the-learner to meet before the learning event to set expectations, talk about the subject and how the individual and team is currently doing, and what’s in it for the individual and team and if there is an improvement. The learner then has pre-work, such as viewing a short video and completing a video worksheet, to begin to build an understanding of the subject. Sometimes this is an eLearning in which any needed knowledge is shared/learned. This is followed by the traditional live learning event where the knowledge is reinforced, built upon, and the skills learned and practiced to mastery. After the live learning event, the learner receives 24/7 access to key learnings and tools, plus daily, then weekly email reminders about what they’ve learned. The learner and the leader-of-the-learner meet again to go over key learnings and planned action items. Then, the learner’s performance will be monitored and recognized/rewarded or coached as necessary, and evaluated on mid-year/annual performance reviews.

Change Management Best Practices

All learning solutions are change initiatives—so change management best practices should be used. But most of these best practices are already addressed in the full-learning transfer model and include the following:

  • Key sponsorship plan
  • Communication plan
  • Training plan
  • Coaching plan
  • Resistance plan

There is one more best practice not usually included in change management initiatives but that is critical to their success. It is "control." If you are familiar with six sigma and the DMAIC acronym, you know the critical importance of the "C"—which is "control." Once you successfully achieve a change in performance, forces are continually at work to change it again—most times to a performance different than or less than desired. You need to put controls in place to make sure the desired change in performance, once achieved, stays consistent.

Keeping Up With Best Practices

All the previous information was discovered through best practices. These best practices will continue to change—at least in part. Make sure you keep up with best practices to continue to maximize your effectiveness in designing your training programs for measurable business impact!

eBook Release: Aptara Corp
Aptara Corp
Aptara provides end to end custom learning design and development services, including cutting-edge technologies like eLearning, microlearning, simulations, learning portals, virtual learning transformations, and gamification