Demonstrating Training Impact Through Collaboration 

Photo displays a group of hands on top of each other. A team huddle.
November 16, 2023

Learning & development (L&D) professionals, like their counterparts in other fields, are expected to demonstrate the impact they bring to the business. However, when faced with the request to isolate the impact of their training programs on broader business outcomes such as sales and profitability, it’s worth exploring a more effective way to showcase their value.

Attempting to isolate the impact of training on business results can be an incredibly challenging task. As Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff aptly puts it, “To isolate the impact of training is methodologically impossible. It’s like saying I’ve got a new laptop; now let’s see if we can isolate the value of the B key.”

Similarly, trying to isolate your contribution to a project can potentially separate you from the project team. According to Brinkerhoff, “If we’re trying to build partnerships with managers of trainees, we can’t use an evaluation plan that isolates the impact of training alone and ignores the critical management support after the training event.”

Demonstrating the value that training brings to the organization is crucial. However, attempting to isolate it from other contributing factors may not be the most effective approach. So, what’s the alternative? We recommend partnering with the business when they request training, enabling you to create a cross-functional plan with a higher likelihood of success.

Here’s how to approach it:

Identify the Desired Outcomes: Start by identifying the highest-level desired outcomes, such as increasing sales volume, reducing time to market, implementing a new system, reducing staff turnover, or improving customer satisfaction.

Define Performance Expectations: For key employees or groups, define the specific behaviors they should exhibit to achieve the desired results in clear, measurable terms. For instance, instead of a vague statement like “Customer service reps need to provide good service to our customers,” define critical behaviors like:

  • Asking the customer to explain their need without interruption.
  • Repeating back their understanding of the issue and confirming agreement.
  • Asking what the customer would like to see done.
  • Granting the customer’s request on the spot if possible.
  • Presenting at least one alternative if immediate resolution isn’t feasible.
  • Confirming that the customer is satisfied with the resolution.
  • Thanking the customer for contacting the company.
  • Tracking the resolution until it’s completely fulfilled.

Collaborate Across Departments: Once the performance and outcomes are defined, then a comprehensive list of all factors that support the desired outcome can be brainstormed by L&D, possibly with a team of professionals from other departments involved.

Instead of assuming training is the answer, think about all methods of support and accountability that will contribute to accomplishing the desired result. A typical list of factors supporting success includes:

  • Training
  • Job aids
  • Performance monitoring systems
  • Reporting of key performance indicators
  • Aligning rewards and compensation with defined performance standards
  • Ensuring necessary tools, equipment, and systems are in place.

As the initiative progresses, you can gather feedback to identify which supporting elements have been the most effective.

Using this information, L&D is positioned to provide an impact report that celebrates how the company came together in support of a key initiative and worked collaboratively for success! This partnership-focused approach is more powerful than attempting to isolate and justify the contribution of a single success factor.

Learn more about how to build business partnerships in the Kirkpatrick® Strategic Evaluation Planning Certification Program. Or, pick up a copy of our book, Bringing Business Partnership to Life. If you have a team to train or you’re not sure how to get started, just reach out to us and we are happy to discuss your needs in more detail. 

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