February 7, 2011
In 2011, Punxsutawney Phil celebrated the 125th Anniversary of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA. On February 2nd, he emerged from his burrow and (according to folklore) predicted the arrival of spring. According to the official rules of Groundhog’s Day, if he sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If, however, he does not see his shadow, we are in for an early spring.
Giving Phil the benefit of the doubt and assuming his prediction is correct, one must admire the precision of outcome metrics: Shadow = 6 weeks. No shadow = Less than 6 weeks. Clear, straightforward, easy to use.
Phil’s system got me thinking about the metrics (and lack thereof) often associated with training initiatives. Too often, organizations implement a training program with no clear plan for identifying actual outcomes and ensuring the ROI of the investment.
In many cases, a 1-page evaluation form distributed at the completion of the training is the only information available to help determine if the program was a success, identify means of building upon knowledge gained, and decide whether the content is worth repeating with future groups of participants. The problem with that, of course, is that a 1-page form distributed immediately upon the conclusion of the program doesn’t cast a very large “shadow” for prognostication purposes!
So what are some options for gathering better information?
Metrics aren’t the end-all, be-all, of course. As Albert Einstein famously noted, “Not everything that counts can be measured. Not everything that can be measured counts.” A complex spreadsheet doesn’t guarantee improved ROI on employee development. And a simple system doesn’t guarantee results, either, if you can’t influence the outcome—Punxsutawney Phil may be right, but those of us who wish for an earlier spring don’t have much hope of increasing the chances of a cloudy day to influence whether or not he sees his shadow.
That said, identifying a handful of key indicators of training effectiveness can help you plan, administer, and build upon the training programs you implement. So the question, then, is:What’s YOUR “training groundhog”?
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About the AuthorAshley Andrus, MPP, has worked with Zoe Training since 2004. Ashley is known for helping clients define their people development needs then coordinating design and delivery of full-service solutions. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and was selected as one of the Denver Business Journal's “40 Under 40" in 2010.