Training Measurement, Purpose and Path

Jim Janco

If you were guaranteed a 125 percent return on an investment, would you take it?

Experts and for-profit companies agree that the high cost to replace employees is very, very real. These costs are estimated to start at 25 percent and easily reach 150 percent of the employee's gross annual compensation. They soar up to 2,400 percent for executive positions and sales professionals.

Turnover Cost Categories are:

  • Lost Initial Productivitybetween notice given and departure
  • Costs to Recruit and Replaceposting , advertising, resume reviews, interviewing
  • Lost Productivity Costs—with inexperienced employee, mistakes, rework to correct
  • Cost to Hire a New Employee—interviews , background/credit checks, testing
  • Training Costs—the cost of the person(s) training/mentoring them just to get them minimally proficient, plus management costs for performance reviews/adjustments
  • Lost Revenue—due to diminished production, lost customer satisfaction, lost customers

Would you rather:

  • Spend $75,000 to replace? or
  • Invest only hundreds per employee to train and retain?
  • Proactive Training can result in a 125 percent savings and ROI

The point? Rather than crash and burn valuable organizational resources, both monetary and emotional, employ and execute a strategically measured, calculated and purposeful Training Program that follows a critical path. You’ll discover huge returns in a) Organizational Unconscious-Competency performance levels, and b) Retaining qualified employees at every level.

All too often, corporate training is conducted simply for the sake of "training," yet without measurement, purpose, a map and a path. Training Initiatives should follow SMART guidelines to meet their intended results. True, measurement can mean dimension and quantity, past tense...however it also alludes to capacity and impact. Those are future-tense calculations, hence measurements.

When pre-measuring or calculating Training Initiatives, I recommend you follow this order:

1) Biggest Immediate Bang
2) Effect the Most Sustainable Positive Change—address the most positive recurring behavior
3) Transitional or connected phase leading towards the next progressive and most probable training step
4) Directly enhances customer care or the quality of our market performance
5) Highest Potential Long-Term Return on Effort; resources include both human and cash

Biggest Immediate Bang equates to being sure your initial training efforts are planned and structured to produce solid, measurable and immediate returns, not just "warm and fuzzies." Measure the anticipated immediate return cautiously, and be sure everyone knows the expected performance outcome.

Effect the Most Sustainable Positive Change lends itself to consistency. Let’s face it, you might be able to bench press 400 pounds, but how many times, and how often? Training goals must produce actionable items that are reproducible on a recurring basis until they are habits, not as a one-time Herculean feat. Structure the training path stages to be immediately feasible and repeatedly implementable at each stage. It must be relevant to an employee’s current activities, and prepare them for what comes next.

Transitional or connected phases produce a training Critical Path. While this sounds simple, it is a strategy that is widely overlooked, or overtly ignored. It involves remembering what it’s like "not to know." One of the most repeated mistakes I’ve come across is when an organization believes that this applies only to new employees. Nothing could be further from the truth. An experienced employee typically operates within an efficiency level called Unconscious Competency. Basically, their productivity motions and efforts have become fluid and seemingly accomplished with ease. However, new and recently transitioned, reassigned, even promoted employees share one thing in common: A phase of absolutely reduced competency.

This process is similar to when we learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. At first, it was a painful effort in Conscious Incompetency. Once we start moving, we realized how incapable we were at that moment in time. We needed someone to hold the seat for a while until we achieved bearing and balance. Soon, we were brave enough to build up momentum to keep ourselves going without immediate assistance. We reached Conscious Competency at that point. We were holding our own, but it was still a concerted effort. What about today? We hop on our bikes and ride off without giving it even a second thought – Unconscious Competency. This only comes from a progressive Training Path.

We must train all employees through phases of incompetency in progressive stages:

  1. Training wheels—direct assistance by a qualified trainer based on clear position results descriptions along with clear and practical expectations of achievement. Conscious Incompetency.
  2. Holding the seat—they’re working towards competency, but can be dangerous. This is stage I call "giving them just enough rope to almost hang themselves." At this point, we release additional details pertinent to a more mature operational role. They are responsible for executing, but under our watchful eye. This also introduces another Leadership Art Form called Levels of Delegation.
  3. Letting go—here is where they’re Consciously Competent, but perhaps still a bit wobbly. Regular performance planned encounters will keep their training progressive, adding to their knowledge list and skill levels.
  4. Turning and Stopping—riding in a straight line has become easy. Now, you’ll train them to accommodate and respond to changing paradigms, more complex issues and problem solving.
  5. Padawan becomes Master—Unconscious Competency has been achieved. They’re ready to start others at step one.

Enhancing Customer Care and/or the Quality of Market Performance all lead to the bottom line of profitability and longevity. One of the best measurements of training success is a direct line to the bottom line, right? Training Paths must be designed not only to retain employees, but to maintain and propel your organization as a viable, successful market entity.

Highest Potential Long-Term Return on Effort is just as important as financial returns. This area separates true high performing training organizations from mere amateurs. High effort must equal high return…and it will if the Training Path is designed for the future. Knowing where you want to go before you begin is crucial to every excursion. Training Initiatives are just that, excursions into future skill, talent, growth and opportunity.

We’re only as good as our people. Just how good do you want to be? If you want to be good and even great, create, then implement and sustain a Measured, Purposeful Training Path at every level of your organization. That 125 percent return on investment will then be in your pocket.