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“But how do you know if the training has worked?”

The implication of this question is that training is all a bit intangible, isn’t it?

At a recent function, I had a very interesting conversation with the CEO of a medium-sized IT company. He clearly cared about the performance level of his staff and of the business itself. He acknowledged that developing his staff was important but found it difficult to ascertain whether or not training made a difference.

“How do you know the training has worked?” he asked me.


How Do You Know?

Part of the answer, I said to him lies in seeing the key metrics improve.

For example, if your staff have undertaken a program on Motivation and Engagement and it has worked you will have:

  • Lower absenteeism
  • Better staff retention
  • NPS score will increase
  • Productivity measurements will increase.

The relevant numbers that you measure in your business should change. However, this is just the quantitative element of the change. You will also get a qualitative change if the training has been effective.

You will observe examples of better results because of the changes in attitudes and behaviours.

For example:

  • Tom is now going the extra mile with an important, but very demanding, client. Prior to the training he did just what was required and openly and loudly complained about the client.
  • Teresa is no longer just handing out tasks via email or with a demanding tone. She is considering why the person would want to do it rather than merely allocating the task, and is getting much better buy-in as a result. She is chasing fewer tasks and is very happy about that.
  • Edward is making a real effort to come in with a smile on his face, looking like he wants to be here rather than just going through the motions. It sounds trivial but I have noticed that the staff in customer service are not as scared to ask him questions any more.

He nodded and agreed that this was valid.


Answer This Question…

Then I asked him a question “If I were to ask you, right now, to rate your staff, to tell me who your ‘high flyers’ are and who your ‘problem people’ are could you do that?”

His response was quick and emphatic “oh yes!”

“And how would you justify your assessment to me?” I asked. He suddenly looked a bit embarrassed, as if he was struggling to think of some numbers, some quantitative evidence.

I then asked him to give me examples of the results, attitudes and behaviours for each of these people. He immediately gave me a set of examples, quantitative and qualitative evidence to support his ratings.

For the two ‘high flyers’ he highlighted their ‘can do’ attitudes, their results on key projects or with key clients, their willingness to help their colleagues, their high level of accountability. For the ‘problem people’ he cited their ineffective communication with other staff, their lack of accountability and commitment, their mediocre results.

He did this very easily and then looked decidedly more relaxed, he was in fact very comfortable with this evidence and it was a mixture of quantitative results and qualitative observations.


Value Your Observations

Qualitative evidence is just as valid as quantitative evidence, we need to value it in the same way. We need to value our observations as much as the metrics on the dashboard.

As the Banking Royal Commission highlighted so intensely, it is not just the results, the ‘what’, that matters. It is also the ‘how’, how you gain the results.

This ‘how’ consists the behaviours of your staff and these are critical indicators for how well your business is performing now and for the longer term, how well you will be regarded by your clients and your shareholders.

Think about two of your ‘high flyers’ and two of your ‘problem people’.

  • What quantitative and qualitative evidence do you have to support your assessment?
  • What are you doing to extend or develop your ‘high flyers’? Most ‘high flyers’ identify ‘coaches and develop me’ as a key motivational driver, so if you want to keep them motivated and keep them on your staff what will you do?
  • What are you doing about those ‘problem people’. They certanly won’t get any better without some intervention. What if you train them and they leave? What if you don’t train them and they stay?!


As you select your training partner, be sure to ask them how they will know that the training has been successful. You might be shocked to know how few have an answer to this and how many of them ‘don’t guarantee anything, let alone results’.