The Guidebook to Training Success for Professional Services Firms

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Managing Professional Services training

It’s no surprise to anyone who works in a professional services firm that massive changes are underway in our industry.

You only have to take a look at how:

  • Services are becoming more commoditised making differentiation harder.
  • Pricing is under pressure as robo-advice and offshoring provide low-cost competition.
  • Cloud platforms are increasing the speed of service delivery.
  • Client expectations are higher than ever in a crowded marketplace.

So, the key to success in a changing landscape is to hunt out the strategic advantage. If your firm can identify even the smallest best practice under its roof, it should be captured and shared quickly and widely among staff. Processes, tools and skills should be reviewed and refined on a constant basis. And most importantly, the client experience needs to demonstrate value on every level.

It’s no different for staff. Competition for high-performing staff remains high, buoyed by increased opportunities to work remotely, the impact of LinkedIn on an employee’s knowledge of job roles and changes in opinion towards employees whose CV lists multiple employers. Human Resources departments know that to attract top staff they need to provide opportunities for improvement and clear pathways for development.

More than ever before, the critical goal for top performing professional services firms is staff training. And the big shift we see now is that this goal is achievable for a firm of any size whether it’s a five-person practice in the suburbs or a mid-tier regionally based firm. As new technologies emerge, efficient and effective means of sharing knowledge and training staff become accessible at low cost and with little internal training expertise.

In this guide, we’ll help you answer three critical questions for knowledge sharing and staff training. Select a section below to begin.

Section 1

What training should you provide?

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Section 2

How do you find training content?

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Section 3

How do you make training a success?

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1 – What training should you provide?

Many professional services firms struggle to provide training to their staff. Often this is just because the process of determining what training to provide feels complicated or overwhelming. As a result, training is sporadic. An impulsive thought often drives it from a team leader or staff member, rather than a strategic focus by the firm. In this section, we inspire you to be more proactive in providing training for your staff.

1 - What training should you provide?
Chapter One

6 step training needs analysis for professional services firms

Any professional services firm delving into training and development of its staff should first learn how to identify and assess training needs properly.   It is counter-productive to offer training to staff who do not need it, or to simply offer the wrong kind of training. A ‘Training Needs Analysis‘ helps to put your often limited training resources to the best possible use.

Indeed, an excellent training program should never cost your organisation anything. Instead, it should provide a positive return on your investment in the form of increased productivity, improved employee retention, or lower overall costs.

Traditional training needs analysis often assesses training requirements in a three-level hierarchical order – organisational needs, task or job function needs, and individual needs. That approach is fine if you have dedicated training staff who can organise all the various results.

For professional services firms, let’s consider a more practical approach, which focuses training resources on very specific objectives.

  1. Determine desired business outcomes
  2. Determine the competencies which drive desired business outcomes
  3. Identify which competencies are trainable
  4. Evaluate existing staff competencies
  5. Determine performance gaps
  6. Prioritise your training needs

Learn more about training needs analysis in this in-depth article.

Chapter Two

How to organise professional services training streams

Whether you manage a growing range of training topics or are looking for inspiration on how to map out learning pathways, it’s useful to use the concept of a ‘training stream’ within your business. So let’s review the most common training streams found in professional services firms to help you define your most suitable streams.

In summary the key training streams are:

  • Business Development: This training stream focuses on ‘new business’ and ‘new clients’. This is often a stream professionals find challenging. Business Development differs from Sales. Business Development finds new clients and brings them into the sales process. Sales focuses on the conversion of new clients into billable revenue (among other things). This stream is significant for growth in a professional services firm as it impacts overall revenue, growth in new clients, business for new advisers or consultants, expansion into new services and development into new products. It should include both personal skills in business development, but also organisation-level knowledge about marketing, branding and planning.
  • Sales: The sales training stream focuses on capturing opportunities and creating revenue. This stream includes converting new leads into new clients, as well as repeat business, up-selling and cross-selling with existing clients. This stream is often a struggle for professionals who have a negative view of the concept of ‘sales’. They may view ‘selling’ as unprofessional. As a result, this stream must often begin with establishing a suitable sales framework or methodology which is appealing to those professionals and your business culture. Until your staff recognise that selling can be a positive experience for all parties, it is unlikely any other topics within this stream will be effective.
  • Relationship Management: This training stream focuses on servicing and relationships with clients. For professionals with transactional clients, Relationship Management is about excellence in execution of a transaction. For professionals with relationship clients, this stream also includes on-going relationship management techniques. For many professionals, this stream is about ‘work in progress’ or project execution. So it must cover issues of both quantity and efficiency, as well as quality and excellence.
  • Management and Leadership: This training stream focuses on two issues which could easily be split into two streams: the management of people and the leadership of an organisation. In smaller firms, these roles are shared. However, in larger firms, there may be managers whose purpose is people-focused, and senior leaders whose focus is on business strategy. The biggest challenge for many professional services firms is that staff are often promoted to management positions based on their technical or commercial success – not their team and people skills. Great managers don’t always come from your strongest performers.
  • Personal Development: This training stream is often viewed as containing the remaining ‘other’ topics relevant for a professional. However, a better way to think of this stream is that it contains the skills required for any professional to be effective in any role. While the Business Development, Sales, Relationship Management, and Management and Leadership streams are role specific, this stream is role agnostic. From support staff to senior leaders, this stream covers the essentials to operate efficiently and effectively.
  • Compliance and Technical: Your business needs will drive this final training stream. As with Management and Leadership, it is possible to break this into two separate streams. Compliance Requirements vary widely between industries, driven by specific regulatory requirements. However, Compliance streams should also address universal issues of appropriate workplace behaviours including harassment, discrimination and workplace health and safety. Technical requirements also vary with each industry. There will likely be some accredited technical training available from registered training providers. However, technical training can also originate from within the firm, as internal experts share best practices in the technical aspects of each role and industry. This is often the ‘street smarts’ to match the ‘book smarts’. As a result, it is often this stream of ‘technical best practice’ which is of greatest interest to professionals as they feel familiar with the topic and keen to improve upon it.

Click here to review training streams in more detail, including suggest topics within each stream.

Chapter Three

Selecting the best training delivery methods

As your firm develops its training content, the delivery of that content is an equally important question. In fact, the selection of training delivery methods is probably a better first step. You can then create your content to suit the required training delivery methods.

When thinking about training delivery methods you will no doubt encounter the various debates about which method is the ‘best’. This debate has raged among training professionals over the last decade as technology has opened up training delivery methods beyond face to face training.

The simple answer is: there is no ‘best’ training delivery method. Every training delivery method has its uses and a modern training manager will embrace every possible option. The debate really only continues because of either vested interests or comfort levels leading to biases in the selections of training delivery methods.

  • Face to face
  • Large group webinars
  • Small group webinars
  • Customised eLearning
  • SME developed eLearning
  • Generic purchased eLearning
  • Micro or Just-in-time eLearning

Click here to review the pros and cons of each of these training delivery methods in detail.


An online training platform is an investment, not an expense!

Is training an investment or an expense? Is an online training platform an investment or an expense?

This classic question continues to challenge accounting firms, legal practices, financial service advisories and all professional services firms as they seek ways to grow and innovate. Training can look like an expense. It immediately registers as an expense with money out the door. Yet the signs that training might be an investment – by providing a return – are harder to see. Staff go to training, but the visible benefits are not that visible.

Once we start to think about making training an investment, we can see that an online training platform becomes a viable solution. An online training platform can…

  • Improve training return by increasing knowledge retention via more smaller, more frequent training, and driving behavioural change through automated follow-up
  • Accelerate training return by allowing staff to align training requirements among their work-in-progress, and complete training immediately and at a pace which suits them
  • Reduce training costs by eliminating expenses without a direct correlation to training, reducing content creation costs (especially via a knowledge sharing platform) and sharing expenses over more staff and a longer time period

The result is a higher return, delivered faster and with less cost. That’s the power of an online training platform. When that platform is also a knowledge sharing platform, like Tribal Habits, then the return increases and the expenses reduce even further. Learn more about how to present online training as an investment in this detailed article. 


Planning and managing training the easy way: 5 key strategies

Studies have long revealed that successful businesses – those with more profit, higher staff engagement, and long-term growth – are often leaders in managing training. They take staff training seriously and ensure managing training forms a part of their strategic planning. And it doesn’t matter if the business is 10 people or 10,000 people – successfully managing training is highly correlated to business success regardless of business size.

Yet many HR and training staff in a professional services firm can face multiple hurdles to implementing training plans. As a result, training becomes ‘something we will get to one day’ or a series of ad hoc events. There is great intention to deal with training, but the hurdles to getting started just seem too high to overcome. There are many articles about managing training hurdles with staff – but what about for the HR or training team and they hurdles they face!

In this article, we identify five of the most common hurdles to overcome in implementing training and suggest a range of possible solutions for HR and training staff to move forward with professional services training plans. In particular, we focus on the hurdles of…

  • Treating training as an ‘event’ and feeling overwhelmed by the decisions
  • Having too much risk placed on HR and training staff for training success
  • Failing to agree a specific and appropriate training budget
  • Putting too much work on HR and training staff to push training
  • Not having options for staff to self-enrol in training activities

Learn more about each of these hurdles and strategies to overcome them when managing training in this extensive in-depth article.

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2 – How do you find training content?

Once you have determined which training topics which would be valuable to your firm, the next step is to source appropriate content and knowledge for your training plans. This can be an exciting, or completely overwhelming, experience! In this section, we examine these decisions to remove the complexity and help anyone managing training at their firm to make confident, educated decisions about training content.

2 - How do you find training content?
Chapter Four

What options do you have for training content?

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Broadly speaking, you have two primary sources for your training content for your professional services firm.

  1. External knowledge. This is knowledge ‘imported’ into your firm from an external source. This might be an external training provider, learning purchased online or a consultant who provides new knowledge or processes.
  2. Internal knowledge. This is knowledge which already exists within your firm. This is often knowledge from internal subject matter experts or other experienced staff. The knowledge may be universal (like sales skills), or it may be unique (such as internal documents).

There are pros and cons to both types of knowledge, and there are scenarios where either could satisfy your training and learning objectives. Let’s examine both in more detail in this in-depth article on training content.

Chapter FIVE

4 tips for purchasing training for professional services firms

Many business owners or HR professionals who are responsible for purchasing training for their professional services firm are inexperienced with the process. The training industry is a fragmented industry, filled with large global vendors through to, literally, thousands of small providers. Like all industries, vendors need to make money and are trained to sell their wares.

As there are typically no refunds in purchasing training, and training results can be difficult to quantify, selecting the right external training content can be a tricky task.

  1. Purchasing training is not the same as consulting, coaching or outsourcing. Training is a specific solution to a specific problem. The first step in purchasing training is to ensure therefore your training provider is providing training, and not consulting or coaching.
  2. Purchasing training is complicated – it’s not like purchasing a product. This process is time-consuming and increases the costs from a ‘standard’ program. It also requires the firm to provide significant information to each possible training vendor and work with them to allow for a customised offering. You need to prepare for this investment of time to obtain a return on your overall investment. You should expect some degree of back and forth with the training vendor. If not – if all they have is the ‘standard package’ – then you might need to lower your expectations.
  3. Subject matter experts are not the same as expert trainers. A large-scale training provider can be a convenient one-stop-shop when basic needs in multiple areas are to be addressed.  However, when long-term adoption of new behaviours is required, a subject-matter expert can usually provide solutions with more significant impact. Pricing can be comparable, as the smaller firms tend to have fewer overheads and don’t use hired facilitators.
  4. Your participants must be considered when purchasing training. This means selecting a delivery method which appeals to your participants, as well as ensuring the content will be relevant to participants. You should also seek a trainer who acknowledges the attitudes of the participants and is willing to provide advice on participant selection and engagement strategies.

Read more tips and tricks in this detailed article on purchasing training.

Chapter SIX

The ultimate list of questions to ask training providers

When you are considering purchasing training, you need to ask a lot of questions to ensure the proposed training solution is going to be a good fit for your professional services firm. There are questions you should be asking internally to ensure training is a good solution, but also questions to be asking externally to potential training providers.

  • How can I be sure the training will solve our identified problem?
  • How do you measure the results of your training?
  • How do you measure attendee satisfaction?
  • To what extent is training content or delivery customisable?
  • How often do you update your course content to ensure relevancy?
  • What kind of feedback do you provide participants?
  • Where do you source your content?
  • Do you keep your instructional design methodologies current?
  • Are your courses eligible for professional development?
  • What are your facilitator’s qualifications and how are they evaluated?
  • How does your training scale for size and location?
  • Can you guarantee satisfaction? 

Learn more about the reasons why they are so important in this article on questions to ask training providers.

Chapter Seven

How can you create training based on internal knowledge?

If your goal is to source training content from internal knowledge, there are a variety of ways to achieve this. Like many solutions, there are simple choices and there are robust choices.

Determining whether you need a quick fix or a dedicated solution comes down to your training content and objectives. Let’s consider a range of options for capturing and sharing internal knowledge.

  • Documents: Internal knowledge sharing starts with documentation. Subject matter experts can create documents capturing their knowledge with almost no cost or training at all. Most professionals are capable of using Microsoft Word to create documents with headings and images. However, documentation-based internal knowledge has some severe limits. It’s passive, unmonitored, static, hidden and not secure.
  • Slides: Slides (such as PowerPoint or Keynote) are a variation on a document. Slides can give more structure and, if well-written and well-represented, can be slightly easier for staff to digest. Slides can also be easily presented so they can be combined with some of the other sharing methods outlined here. Slides still have all the limits of documentation though. Worse, slides are not well designed, making them less appealing than documents in this regard. A set of slides containing short bullet points may be meaningless to the uninformed, whereas a document with complete explanations would provide more context.
  • Videos: Video recordings of your subject matter experts are a great way to capture and share knowledge. Videos are engaging to watch, provide more context than text alone, and can demonstrate techniques and skills more intuitively. Video by itself is not a solution though. Video needs to be available to everyone in your firm. There are further limitations and challenges of video – good size, file sizes, search options, time-consuming editing, time spent recording and accessibility. Ultimately videos are compelling but require some careful construction and an appropriate video hosting environment.
  • Presentations: Presentations occur when your internal experts give a live presentation to other staff to share knowledge and provide training, often using slides. It might be during a team meeting, at a staff conference, at a regular ‘lunch and learn’, or on a webinar. In all cases, it’s your internal expert presenting their knowledge. The tricky part with presentations is the presenter. Internal experts are not always great speakers. Too often these sessions become ineffective due to the internal expert’s inability to present their knowledge in a way which is easy for non-experts to understand. They may not effectively organise or structure their thoughts, or they may be a disengaging presenter. Presentations can involve much work for a small (or one-off) reward.
  • (Corporate) Social Media platform: Internal social media platforms allow staff to share and exchange knowledge in a ‘close to real-time’ or ‘just in time’ fashion. Even small firms using instant messaging platforms can enable staff to quickly seek out expertise from within the firm when needed.  It can, however, create a burden for your internal experts. Their time can be wasted if they are being asked for the same information repeatedly from multiple staff, or they face constant interruptions for small pieces of knowledge. Knowledge sharing via social learning is also ‘shallow’. It is typically short and addresses very specific questions rather than addressing a ‘deep’ analysis of the topic. Not all knowledge can be acquired at the moment it is needed either. Sales skills, for example, need to be learnt in advance – you can’t stop a client meeting to quickly Tweet questions to your internal experts!
  • eLearning modules: eLearning (online learning) is an exceptionally suitable way to capture and share internal knowledge. As we have discussed earlier, eLearning is an excellent delivery method for professionals. It is repeatable, available 24/7 in any location, and easy to monitor.  In the hands of an expert designer, they can result in terrific training. The challenge is that your internal experts are probably not also experts in eLearning design. To make the most of eLearning as an internal knowledge tool, you are going to need the services of an expert.  As you can probably tell, developing eLearning is expensive. External experts may spend 20-40 hours developing a 1-hour eLearning module. There will then be additional costs for templates, video production and graphic design. It is not unusual for firms to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 per eLearning module. Plus you will need a Learning Management system to host and distribute the eLearning on top of that.
  • Knowledge sharing platform: A final option for capturing internal knowledge is a knowledge sharing platform. These platforms are designed specifically for this purpose. Knowledge sharing platforms attempt to take the best parts of other options and eliminate the negatives. Knowledge sharing platforms are designed for anyone to use. Any expert in your business should be able to log in to the platform and use the available tools to create eLearning modules about their expertise. The platform provides your experts with a very low learning curve with intuitive tools similar to those in PowerPoint or Word. The platform provides your expert with guidance, tips and feedback to help them structure their thoughts and capture their ideas. The entire process should really take no longer than it would to develop the same content in slides or documents. The advantages, however, are many.
Chapter Eight

How do you build a culture of knowledge sharing?

Whether you utilise internal knowledge as your primary source of training or not, chances are that your business utilises internal knowledge sharing in some way. It’s worth taking some time to consider whether this occurs through informal channels or is formalised into the very culture of the firm.
Knowledge sharing is far more than just showing your colleague how to use shortcuts in the invoicing software. For a professional services firm, a knowledge sharing culture is the very essence of strategic advantage!

If human capital is the primary resource for a professional services firm, then knowledge sharing – along with its identification and capture – is the key to leveraging that resource.

The problem is that most professional services firms don’t understand what knowledge is. They confuse knowledge with information. In particular, they focus heavily on technical information, often at the expense of commercial expertise. They also tend to create an environment that rewards the hoarding of knowledge, not the sharing of knowledge.

Changing the game around knowledge sharing requires a firm to rethink the very nature of knowledge:

  1. Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is the know-how around that information.
  2. Knowledge sharing requires the direct involvement of those with the know-how.
  3. The creation of knowledge and training must be as important as its consumption.
  4. The recognition for collaboration must be as important as that of individual performance.

Any professional services firm which views its expertise and knowledge as a valuable resource – a resource which could be a strategic advantage – needs an environment that encourages knowledge sharing. It requires a culture of collaboration, not a culture to worship the ‘cult of the expert’.
Firms are advised to work backwards through the above four points, starting with individual recognition for sharing. People are motivated by ‘what’s in it for me’. If the only benefit for knowledge sharing is for others, then individual staff are unlikely to participate unless they are intrinsically motivated.

Recommendations to create a culture of collaboration can include:

  • KPIs for the creation of content, knowledge and training
  • Promotion hurdles that include a demonstration of knowledge sharing
  • Internal time recognition for time spent capturing and sharing knowledge such as an internal ‘knowledge client’ which can be charged at external client rates
  • Hiring policies that emphasise collaboration, teamwork and sharing
  • Reward and recognition by peers and management of sharing and collaboration
  • Investment in a knowledge sharing solution to institutionalise collaboration
  • An environment that supports transparent communication and open-door policies

Learn more about the background of cultural problems with knowledge sharing along with additional solutions to building a culture of knowledge sharing in this article.

Chapter Nine

3 criteria to select subject matter experts

One of the keys to successfully sharing knowledge within your organisation is how you select subject matter experts. Whomever you choose will have a reasonably large impact on not just what knowledge is shared, but how it is shared. As a result, its critical to make a wise choice! Sometimes, in small teams or organisations, the choice of an expert is obvious (or even limited to a single person). In larger organisations, finding an expert can be harder – they are often unknown to human resources management or learning and development teams.

So the choice of an expert needs thought and management. In particular, successful knowledge sharing experts tend to have three common characteristics.

  1. Your experts obviously need to have expertise in the topic! However, this is not always as obvious as it first sounds. The best expertise can be replicated by others. We don’t want expertise which is reliant upon another condition – historical situations, inherent talent or isolated conditions. The ideal is expertise which is easy to transfer and useful in the future.
  2. Your experts need to have time to capture their knowledge. So we want experts who wont feel under too much pressure to devote some of their time to this knowledge capture process. Experts who are already being asked to do too much may view this request with annoyance.
  3. We need experts who don’t mind sharing. Now, in theory, your organisation cultural should be rewarding and celebrating the sharing of knowledge and this shouldn’t be an issue. So we want experts who are confident in their expertise, are comfortable sharing their knowledge and share in a passionate manner so that other people naturally want to take advantage of their ideas.

Click here to learn more about these three criteria and other key considerations to select subject matter experts.

Need help planning your professional services training budget?

3 – How to make training a success?

At this point, you should have clear ideas on what training your firm should focus on, how that training can be delivered, and what combination of internal knowledge, with supporting external knowledge, is required. You have a training and knowledge plan. Success awaits! Or does it? There are many ways for the best training plans to go astray. The success of training comes from its implementation by staff, not its planning and delivery.

3 - How to make training a success?
Chapter Ten

How to avoid managers ruining your training plans!

Without question, managers play the most important role in training. It is not the trainer or expert, not the participants themselves. Managers. The person to whom your staff report to on a daily basis.

Managers set the tone before and after the training and are responsible for setting expectations and accountability.

As a result, we must be cautious that managers send critical messages to participants:

  • Staff need to see managers engaging in the training at a personal level. The “Do as I say, not as I do” message from some managers will be interpreted by staff that the training can be ignored. Instead, managers MUST involve themselves in the training to demonstrate how important it is.
  • Staff need clear expectations set by their managers. Managers who view training attendance as training completion are failing to help their staff realise that actual change is training completion. Managers need to set expectations with staff about what they will do differently as a result of the training.
  • Staff need to be held accountable by managers for change. Further to this, staff should know how they will be ‘measured’ after the training. Once managers explain to staff, upfront, what is expected to occur after the training, those managers then need to check for that change. They need to conduct 1:1 debriefs, ask for feedback, review workbooks or journals or make on-the-job observations.
Chapter Eleven

How to avoid staff ruining your training plans!

Clearly, the role of the manager in training is critical. However, it does not all sit on the shoulders of managers! Training participants have a role to play as well and can’t simply blame management for their poor training outcomes.

And the most common problem for staff when approaching training? Frankly, they are not very good learners.

Training for adults usually involves (a) learning new, unfamiliar knowledge or (b) changing long-term habits. Your staff are no longer children. They are adults with embedded beliefs, attitudes and habits. The learning process can, therefore, be confronting, challenging and frustrating as they feel their beliefs being challenged, that their way of doing things is not optimal or they experience a lack of control or expertise.

While some staff instantly see the benefits and push through any short-term pain, many staff will experience some uncertainty or fears during training. It is natural for participants to seek excuses to avoid these difficult feelings.

  • “I just don’t have the time to implement this”
  • “I don’t see the value or point in changing my current skills/habits”
  • “I tried it once and it didn’t work, so I am giving up”
  • “I will give it a try when all the tools and processes are fixed”
  • “It’s all too confusing and I don’t know where to start”

In all these statements, the participant is turning away from the training because initially it feels hard and they are used to being on top of everything. This is a pivotal moment in learning and a failure to push through this moment will almost certainly result in a failed training exercise.

The problem is that unless the participant is moderately self-motivated, they may not be able to overcome this barrier on their own. So, yes, once again, managers play a role and will need to step up and help deal with the situations.

Learn more about how staff ruin training plans in this in-depth article.

Chapter Twelve

What training results should you be measuring?

Training has long struggled to justify its existence. How do we measure training success? What are the critical outcomes of training? How do we know if it is any good or making an impact?

For most professional services firms, the easiest training evaluation method to understand and utilise is the Kirkpatrick Model. It’s a well-known and well-proven model which serves as inspiration for the built-in reporting in the Tribal Habits platform.

The Kirkpatrick model suggests four levels of training measurement.

  1. Reaction: The degree to which participants find the training favourable, engaging and relevant to their jobs.
  2. Learning: The degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment based on their participation in the training.
  3. Behaviour: The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.
  4. Results: The degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and the support and accountability package.

These four levels of training measurement can help you identify the correct questions to ask, as well as determine the harder question of ‘just what do we need to measure?’.

Why do we measure training results?

Not all training is the same. Some training is expensive, serious and designed to change important behaviours in the participants. Other training is cheap, quick and designed merely to inform. As a result, training programs do not all need the same measurement.

Indeed, measuring training effectiveness is not always easy. As you move up the levels in the Kirkpatrick model, it becomes increasingly harder, longer and more expensive to complete the required measure.

Finding out if a participant thought the training program was the right length (a Level 1 Reaction measurement) is easy. Meanwhile, quantifying the direct business impact caused by the training (a Level 4 Results measurement) may require months of tracking the involvement of many participants and their managers, and the isolation of other factors which may change the business impact.

It’s possible for the accurate measurement of training effectiveness to take just as long and cost just as much as the training itself.

So, the first question to ask is “Why are you measuring training effectiveness?”. Once you understand the answer to that question, you can determine what measurement is appropriate.

How do you determine the right amount of training measurement?

Let’s unpack this question with a series of thoughts. The answers to these thoughts, combined with the ideas in the following chapters, will help you to understand what training measurement is appropriate for each of your training programs.

  • What will you do (if anything) with the results of the training measurement? Report to management to justify the program, or make changes to the program for future use?
  • How much did the training program cost? What’s an appropriate spend on measuring that training?
  • How easy is it to isolate the impact of training on behaviours and results?
  • In what context will participants use the training? Will they be expected to remember the training precisely, or can they refer to the training while on-the-job?
  • What is the impact if participants implement incorrectly? How important is it that their understanding is perfect?
  • How rigid is the training? Must participants follow a highly-defined process, or can participants interpret ideas to suit their situation?
  • How large will your data set be? Do you have just a few participants, which might easily skew results, or a large cohort to reveal trends?
Chapter Thirteen

Measuring Kirkpatrick Level 1 Reaction and Satisfaction in training

Training has long worried about justifying its existence. How do we measure training success? What are the critical outcomes of training? How do we know if the training is any good and if it is making any impact? Let’s begin with Kirkpatrick Level 1 analysis on initial reaction to training.

Most learning and development professionals will be familiar with The Kirkpatrick Model of evaluating the effectiveness of training. It’s a great model and serves as inspiration for the built-in reporting in the Tribal Habits platform. The model suggests four levels of training measurement.

  1. Reaction: The degree to which participants find the training favourable, engaging and relevant to their jobs.
  2. Learning: The degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment based on their participation in the training.
  3. Behaviour: The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.
  4. Results: The degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and the support and accountability package.

Kirkpatrick Level 1 Reaction is the base level of training evaluation. Many training professionals may scoff at Level 1 analysis, referring to training feedback forms as ‘happy sheets’ – were my participants happy? Certainly, if that’s the only evaluation you are conducting, then perhaps that’s a little simple. But it shouldn’t be overlooked either. There’s nothing wrong with happy participants.

So evaluating issues of the length of the training event, the speed of training, quality of the facilitator and quality of materials is still important. It’s a hygiene issue – training should make people upset! If we can get a good reaction – a good Level 1 test – then its unlikely we will obtain results in the more important Level 2 and Level 3 evaluations.

Learn more about measuring training success in reaction and satisfaction in this article.


Measuring Kirkpatrick Level 2 Learning and Understanding in training

I think from the easiest way to think about Kirkpatrick Level 2 is simply ‘Has the participant actually acquired new knowledge?’. Ideally, they have learnt knowledge directly related to the course content and its objectives. However, if the participant encountered additional learning on other topics, or the content triggered insights into other areas, then we should acknowledge that too. Training should stimulate all learning.

Associated with the concept of learning is understanding. A more robust analysis at Level 2 would be the degree to which the participant actually understood, not just acquired, the knowledge in the training activity. Understanding is pivotal to the participant’s ability to improvise, adapt, combine or extend the knowledge in on-the-job application. It’s one thing to remember the training content, but another thing to fundamentally understand it.

Kirkpatrick Level 2 is a key measure of success for the majority of corporate training. It’s not the only measure, but it’s critical to achieve success at Level 2 in order to have success at other levels.

Learn more about measuring learning and understanding in training in this in-depth article.

Chapter Fifteen

Measuring training change and Kirkpatrick Level 3 Behaviour

Now we get to the interesting measurements…where most training experiences fail to go! This is because most training experiences stop at the transfer of knowledge (Levels 1 and 2) and leave it to someone else to track any further outcomes. Perhaps many training experiences don’t want to know the results, as it may reflect poorly on the training!

Although to be fair, often a Level 3 Behaviour measurement is not appropriate for every topic. Training involving regulations, technical knowledge or product knowledge may only require a Level 2 Learning measurement.

As a result, Level 3 Behaviour reporting is optional within Tribal Habits and should be considered carefully for any training program. Measuring behavioural change in training can be a complex and consuming task. It requires a mechanism to capture both quantitative and qualitative feedback from participants after they have left the training program – sometimes weeks or months later.

It requires commitment from all stakeholders – training provider, training admin, participant and the participant’s manager – to ensure enough data is collected and that the data is high quality.

Once you have behavioural change data, you must then do something with it. The training provider and training admin need to review the data for trends and outcomes. Perhaps the best use of behavioural data is by managers, who can use the data for 1:1 coaching with participants or to provide timely intervention when participants are struggling.

Learn more about measuring behavioural change in training in this detailed article. 

Chapter Sixteen

Measuring training outcomes and Kirkpatrick Level 4 Results

The ultimate test of most training is the measurement of its impact on business results. It is true that some training – perhaps on technical knowledge – may only require a simpler analysis, such as tests of understanding or learning, to be considered a success.

However, professional services firms often invest in training for the purpose of improving the firm’s results. Through better skills, staff help the firm achieve its strategic goals. This leads to the final form of training measurement – level 4 on the Kirkpatrick scale – measuring the impact on results.

To be fair, tracking Kirkpatrick Level 4 results can be extremely difficult.

Isolating the impact of training on the overall performance of a professional services firm can be almost impossible. Results may come from changes in competitors, the economy or services which occur at the same time as training. Every topic also has a different impact on a firm, in terms of both the areas it improves and the level of impact or improvement.

Measuring the business impact of training also requires planning. Appropriate business metrics must be selected and measured before the training occurs. Without this benchmark, level 4 analysis cannot be completed. Put simply – you can’t decide later to measure business impact from training. You must decide this before the training begins.

The selected business metrics must then be measured over an acceptable period. Sometimes the business impact may not occur for 6-12 months. Training on business development topics are a good example – it can take months for business results to be impacted. And the longer the time period, the harder it becomes to isolate the impact of training on those metrics.

Learn more about measuring results in training in this detailed article. 

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