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Corporate training: who to teach and how to evaluate results

Corporate training

The effectiveness of corporate training is determined by a combination of five key factors that allow trainees to retain more information in their memories, increase their awareness, achieve better results and thus increase the ROI of invested capital. These factors are: interactivity, memorability, flexibility in use, assistance and accessibility.

There are different approaches to assessing the effectiveness of different learning systems. The following key processes that determine the effectiveness of a learning system as a whole can be identified:

the methodology for forming the knowledge system;
methodology of forming the system of professional skills and abilities;
profitability of the educational process;
a reasonable pricing strategy for education.

Let us formulate some rules that allow us to move from methodological statements to more specific criteria for assessing the comparative effectiveness of learning systems.

  1. A learning system is more effective than another one if the learning load of a student during a given period (semester, year) in this system is more uniform than in a comparable one. This statement is based on the fact that in most cases it is not possible to form a knowledge system with an uneven learning load (for example, only during sessional training).
  2. The learning system is more effective than the other, if the ratio of the number of hours of skills-building sessions to the total number of sessions is greater than in the comparable system. In other words, in order to develop professional skills, a sufficient number of practical sessions, training and other activities with complex professional skills are required. Given the introduction of interactive online tasks in distance learning technology, the ratio of practical training to the total number of hours is becoming quite high and is approaching that of face-to-face training. The peculiarities of organizing and conducting distance learning do not allow increasing the value of this indicator to an acceptable level. On average, the ratio of the number of hours of practical training to the total number of hours devoted to the study of the discipline for the various forms of training is distributed as follows: full-time – up to 40%, distance learning – up to 10%, distance learning – 30%.
  3. The training system should be cost effective with reasonable pricing policies.

Thus, according to the criteria for the formation of knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as due to a more even distribution of the study load of a student during the year distance learning technology is comparable to the full-time form of education and is significantly superior to distance learning in terms of quality parameters.

Who to teach?

The creation of any training system should begin with the development of a personnel evaluation system. And the assessment should contain not only the professional level, knowledge, skills, their conformity with the work performed. The personal assessment of the employee, showing his readiness to accept new things, to develop, is of great importance. As the first task, it is necessary to decide which of the company’s employees should be trained.

Any employee can be assigned to one of the categories:

I – can and want to learn;
II – they want to, but cannot learn;
III – can, but do not want to learn;
IV – do not want to and cannot study.

From this matrix it becomes clear that almost no one from category IV is worth learning, investments in them will almost never pay off. Category III teaching is dangerous and irrational, as there is no desire to use it for the company’s benefit if there is potential. Category II is possible to teach, but within certain frameworks and forms appropriate to their capacity to perceive and use the new. One of the most rational forms of learning for this category is learning aimed at systematizing existing knowledge and experience. Finally, category I makes sense to invest resources in their learning. It is this category of employees that gives maximum return on investment in their training.

Distance testing of trainees when forming face-to-face groups becomes important for corporations. The fact is that very often training groups of mixed composition are recruited, so one half are well-trained people, and the other half are people with “zero” knowledge. Training sessions are usually designed for the medium level, so one half does not understand anything, and the other half is bored. When forming a group, it is necessary to conduct a distance test, based on the results of which to divide the students into equal groups.

Possible goals of training the company’s personnel are as follows:

training to work with the newly implemented system (product);
mastering new skills when new tasks arise;
systematization of existing knowledge;
gaining experience in a new field;
filling gaps in existing knowledge (experience);
additional motivation of the employee;
orientation of employees towards strategic goals of the company (directions or forthcoming task);
removal of resistance to change in the company (direction of structure, management models, etc.).
There are three possible schemes of corporate training process organization with elements of distance learning.

  1. The first scheme is self-learning. In this case, it is necessary to have a quality learning computer program, which maintains a dialogue with the learner and builds an individual learning trajectory. For large corporations, such a scheme is very effective because they once invest in a quality computer-based learning program, providing access to information resources and the possibility of obtaining reference information at the workplace. As a result, they are achieving their goal of increasing the efficiency of their core operations by increasing the level of personnel training.
  2. The second scheme is a classical one (with the participation of a teacher). There is a high-quality training computer program, and the teacher organizes either feedback or just conducts a class with students, conducts online consultations, etc. Advantages are as follows: a teacher can teach a class not at a university or training centre, but from his workplace (the same applies to students).

The third scheme is blended learning. This form is a combination of distance learning and face-to-face learning. Learners study the subject from their workplace and then come to the training centre where they are taught face-to-face.

Different factors influence the choice of a scheme for creating a system of distance learning: the size of the corporation, its spatial distribution, the structure of management of the company, and others.

Corporate training

How to evaluate?

The effectiveness of corporate distance learning is determined by a combination of five key factors that allow trainees to retain more information in their memories, increase their awareness, achieve better results and thus increase their ROI. These factors are: interactivity, memorability, flexibility in use, assistance and accessibility.

1) Interactivity. Introducing interactivity into the learning process makes the learner more active and makes him/her try to achieve maximum results. Interactivity also helps teachers to incorporate more complex materials into the course.

  1. Rememberability. In order to be more memorable, learners must feel the importance of the material they are learning. This is also helped by structuring the headings of the topics being studied to ensure that the necessary information is retained in memory. This, in turn, makes it more likely that they will apply what they have learned in future real-world projects.
  2. 3. Flexibility in use. The system should provide for training of employees with different levels of training and different capabilities. As the company grows, the course content rarely remains the same, so the training tools should be able to change the training content. The change itself must be planned and monitored.
  3. Providing assistance. Since e-learning usually takes place on an individual basis, it is essential that the training system provides assistance to learners. They need instructions for the course, navigation tools, task tips, definition links, support when technical questions arise, etc. All of this will help employees focus on training rather than being distracted by annoying interferences.
  4. Availability. Due to student workload, it is often difficult to choose the time for the learning process. Different ways of delivering training content should be used to address this problem. If the learning material is available on the Internet, it should be possible to use it outside of work.

The first, best known and most practiced method for evaluating the effectiveness of learning programmes to date was developed by Donald Kirkpatrick over 40 years ago. According to that methodology, evaluation takes place at four levels.

Level 1. Learners’ response to the training programme. This level evaluates the participant’s satisfaction with the programme and the learning process. This is the easiest level to implement. It is mainly characteristic of corporate training and training centres, where all programmes are evaluated at this level. However, assessments at this level are subjective: they only indicate whether the trainees liked the programme, but do not provide any information about its success for both the trainees and the company, as well as the quality of the knowledge and experience gained.
Level 2. Assessment of the knowledge and experience gained by the trainee in the program. Technology of evaluation at this level includes interview (exam), survey, testing after the training process. This level is widely implemented in educational institutions and presented as a system of credits (examinations). At this level, the learning outcomes are assessed: it is determined whether the students have received the knowledge and skills that were included in the program.
Level 3. Assessment of behavior in the workplace. How trainees apply the acquired knowledge and skills in the working environment is explained. This is not practiced in educational institutions, and only 30% of corporate training programs are evaluated at this level. The complexity of the assessment is that you have to wait from one month to six months to get results. However, despite the complexity and cost of evaluating a training project at level 3, it is here, for the first time, that the real benefits of a training programme for an employee are manifested.
Level 4. Evaluation of the impact of the training program on the company’s business. This level evaluates what measurable results the company has achieved through its corporate training programs. This is the most difficult level to implement, and only 10% of personnel training programs are evaluated on this parameter. The main difficulty is to isolate the effect of training from a large number of other factors that also affect the company’s business.

The Kirkpatrick model provides only a basis for evaluating performance, but does not offer any method or solution. Therefore, the following additional data should be used for further analysis: efficiency of use of funds; efficiency of the learning process; compliance with training requirements.

One of the detailed models for evaluating training programs was proposed by Jack Phillips in 1997. The author has collected and described more than 40 training projects in different organizations, identified the benefits of the evaluation methods used in each case and developed a six-step “ROI (return on investment) model”.

Step 1: Data collection. Immediately before data collection, it is necessary to identify the objectives for which the assessment is done, then collect the data using different tools (surveys, interviews, testing, observations, performance measurement). The assessment is done in several stages: before, after, during and after the training.

Step 2: isolating the learning effect. Execution of this stage allows to exclude the influence of external factors not directly related to the training project. To date, a large number of solutions have been developed that allow you to do this, all of them are not flawless, but in a complex application give an adequate result.

Step 3: Conversion of data into monetary form. It is necessary to pass from such concepts as quality growth, effective distribution of resources, reduction of idle time and labor costs to the sum of money spread over time intervals.

Step 4: Evaluation of training costs. It is necessary to assess not only the obvious costs, but also the implicit costs, such as absenteeism during training, etc.

  1. Step 5. ROI calculation. The results of the third and fourth steps are used for its implementation.
  2. Step 6: Identifying the implicit benefit. An implicit benefit can be considered the growth of team spirit, job satisfaction, conflict reduction, etc.

If the complete and reliable information required to calculate the ROI is not available, the Simplified Return on Investment (SROI) approach suggested by Jeff Moonen can be used. For the purpose of reduction of complexity of data gathering and calculations at calculation SROI only those factors (both positive, and negative) which in a current situation essentially differ from average values are taken into account. The principles of calculating SROI are presented in six stages.

1) Using relative data if necessary. ROI can be calculated as a relative value when absolute data are not available. In this case, the value by which the ROI will change during the transition from one situation to another (for example, when a new technology is put into operation) is calculated.

  1. Expression of quality data on a numerical scale. It is proposed to consider only three categories: economic criteria (usually expressed in monetary units); qualitative criteria (ability, behavioral criteria, quality of service, usually expressed in terms of “better” and “worse”); efficiency criteria (expressed in terms of time required to perform a certain task, usually in terms of “more” and “less”).
  2. Presentation of SROI calculation as a non-financial calculation. Financial data are converted into relative scores (e.g. on a scale from -10 to +10). This approach emphasizes the subjective nature of ROI, which is much closer to reality.
  3. Considering the minimum number of variables that change the current situation. Only those parties of a particular situation for which the expected difference before and after the necessary changes will be not just noticeable but essential should be considered for the calculation.
  4. Calculation of different ROI values depending on the participants of the situation and the stage of innovation implementation. When calculating the ROI using different numbers of participants in a situation, different results are often obtained (for example, from the perspective of a manager and a teacher). Therefore it is necessary to perform ROI calculations for each of the categories of participants: staff, teachers, students, etc.
  5. 6. Using SROI results to improve the process and methodology of decision making, but not for the decisions themselves. The most important contribution of SROI is systematic analysis, the emergence of information for reflection, creating a basis for stakeholder discussions. Consequently, the use of SROI provides a benchmark for informed decision making.
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