Book Review: Link Training to Your Bottom Line was written by Dean Spitzer and Malcolm Conway

The first line of this book announces an impending crisis in the training world that threatens it very survival.   It says, “simply stated the crisis is the failure to show that investing in training produces demonstrateable business results.

Link Training to Your Bottom Line was written by Dean Spitzer and Malcolm Conway in 2006 and the opening line is still relevant today as it was six years ago.  If my experience in the learning and development world, evaluation is still one of the ‘poor cousins’ when it comes to the instructional systems design models and processes simply because we don’t know how to actually measure the training investment and its impact to business results.

The questions that business managers still ask today and especially in a world with a constrained economy and focus on cost reduction are “how do we know that our training is getting results?”  “How can we measure the ROI of our training systems?” “How can we increase the impact of our training investment?”

The book was written before the advent of new learning media such as virtual classrooms and social media but the questions still remain relevant today as managers are still asking the question but is training providing an answer for them?

The authors state that  we have limitations in measuring training simply because it hasn’t advanced as everyone believes that there is a causal relationship between training and business results but few have been able to find one.  They recall that Kirkpatrick gave the Level 4 Results only a passing mention with no information on how to measure them.  When Jack Phillips proposed the extra level to link to ROI, he neglected to provide the tools.  Therefore there seems to be a disconnect between the application and the business results because we don’t have the tools and the knowledge to be able to apply these.

The authors state that we have the Evaluation model upside down. The desired state is to measure business results first and for the majority of the time and measure Level 1,2 and 3 only as needed.   But in order to do this, there needs to be a fundamental change in how we measure our training from Retrospective (Levels 1,2 and 3) to Predictive (Level 4).

The Training Results Model presented by Spitzer andConway developed by IBM Learning Solutions is one that can be undertaken at any stage of the training cycle and it has five components:

  1. Organisation Mapping
  2. Performance Measurement Analysis
  3. Causal Chain Analysis
  4. Training Benefit/Cost Analysis
  5. Training Investment Analysis

Using the five approaches, the organisation will be able to measure the impact of training directly to business results.  The benefit of this phased approach is that training can directly see the links of the causes of poor performance and to create key aspects to measure against.  In effect, the authors provide the information for us to reconsider how we look at training.  That is, we need to consider and treat training as an investment and as such, it should be evaluated as such.

The limitations of this book is that it is only 16 pages and provides the broad information on what is in each phase and provides examples of how it may be used in a case study scenario.  However, once again, the actual tools for measurement is not provided nor any information given on what these may be or who we need to resource to assist us in sourcing the information such as account manager or financial teams.    There is a checklist provided on the TRM components, what an organisation can do in each of the phases and best practices in each phase but it would be nice to have been given further detail about the financial tools in each of the phases.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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