After the effort and expense of setting up and coordinating a workforce development event, with the time away from the job, the expense of the instructor, (and don’t forget the expected coffee/donuts and lunch!), what happens next? Was the training worth it?

Actually, as many organizational leaders know, it is often difficult to show concrete results after training. The evaluation of training often stops at the smile sheet; instructors and coordinators report the positive comments by trainees and leave it at that. Others may cite incidental comments heard after training, such as “I learned a lot, and I will use it.” But has there been real change? For example: Has retention of top talent gotten better? Has the defect rate for products gone down? Has the business seen any monetary change after training that indicates it was worth it?

Many leaders and human resources professionals have a difficult time with this question, because of the idea that the experience in the training event itself is all that is needed to change the behavior of students in the real job, permanently. But really, there are four main steps to take to make training impactful. Follow the elements of the four-part model that I use to explain to instructors and leaders how to prevent the typical losses with training efforts.

effective training graphic

This model shows that each of these elements must have equal amounts of attention. Starting with the needs, the right students go to the right class. Each participant should be able to state what the final effect will be for them. For example: An industrial engineer may be going to a Six Sigma Green Belt Class. The student should already have a project in mind to use their new skills on, so that they can better control variation and defects. A customer service agent is expected to increase the customer satisfaction score when solving complaints through online chats. A production operator is to reduce equipment downtime by increasing her troubleshooting skills. Each of these training outcomes are linked to business needs. Determine behaviors linked to business outcomes and communicate the expectations to trainees and step one is done!

Now that the right student is going to get the right training session and knows what they need out of it, they attend a training session. It cannot be a “Death by PowerPoint” type of class. It must be interactive, full of practice, reflection and skill building. It can be done in a one on one session with an expert trainer, or in a classroom, and even online, if the student has a chance to practice their new skills and learning, reflecting on how they will use them in the job. The instructor (less so if it is an online class) has a great opportunity to evaluate the new skills and behavior. They can use case studies and evaluate their analysis, they can have the students do a skill in competition with others, they can have the students make plans to use the new skills and evaluate them. However, even when students prove they know something new, it does not necessarily follow that they use new skills in the job. A learner can pick up skills through reserach, reading books and getting mentoring for others as well.  This requires some motivation and drive from themselves, and a close partnership with their leader for guidance, support and a focus on outcomes will help tremendously.

Next, the leader who agreed to send the participant to class must take care when learners return to the job. Leaders often try to recover from being short-handed, and may send participants straight back to work as usual. But the learner needs to practice new skills now more than ever. When students and their leaders are clear and in agreement as to how new skills will be used after class, they still need to be allowed extra time, as learners may be uncomfortable and slow to succeed with new skills. For example, an operator is asked to use new troubleshooting techniques the next time the equipment stops instead of calling for maintenance and they carefully and cautiously go through the newly learned list. A customer service representative may take longer with chat responses as he takes care to use perfect grammar and a positive tone. With the supervisor’s support, students becomes more natural with behavior and continue to push through the transition to new, more effective behaviors.

Last of all, leaders are in the best position to partner with their Human Resources Professionals and Instructors to report the differences that training made. The first question at this point is, did the behavior change, and did that make the original need for training go away? Has customer service feedback changed for the better regarding chat conversations? Have the Six Sigma techniques reduced defective product? Has uptime on equipment improved? Students need to hear this feedback as well, and given recognition such as praise and favorable performance reviews for their part in turning business issues around. If after all this, training did not show that it met the business need, then take it seriously and start an investigation as to where in this cycle it broke down. Any information found will help training efforts to work the next time.

Contact Katy Caselli to bring the Building Giants Workshop to your organization to help launch a learning culture and educate leaders to get impactful results through workforce development. Katy Caselli is the author of Building Giants: A Proven System to Transform Your Workforce Through Effective Training. She is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, workforce development expert and rock-star instructor. See more at See a short video on this subject here. Send a message to Katy: or call 919 564 6855, USA, Eastern Standard Time.