How to improve levels of training engagement. 
Delegate engagement 
When we say the words ‘training engagement’, it is easy to think solely about engagement of the individual receiving the training but actually consideration also needs to be given to the engagement levels of the delegate’s manager or employer. 
 
Provided the individual is motivated and interested in learning, getting engagement from the delegate can be pretty straightforward – ensuring that high quality, relevant training content is delivered by a compelling and inspiring trainer and if the training is delivered over multiple days ensure that the delegate is suitably fed, watered and has a comfy bed for the night! 
Employer engagement 
If we now turn our attention to the operational manager or employer, there can be several factors which affect their level of interest in sending their team members on training courses: 
• Cost – the provision of training can be expensive and employers may be hesitant to invest, especially when budgets are constrained 
• Time – employers may be reluctant to release employees from their day to day responsibilities due to the time commitment required and the obvious impact on productivity 
• Lack of perceived value – if an employer does not recognise the value of the training and does not believe it will deliver a return on investment then they will be less willing to allocate the necessary resources to it 
• Difficulty in measuring ROI – measuring the impact of training can be challenging and if an employer is unsure how to do so then they will be cautious about investing in training hours 
In reality, the operational manager within larger organisations can often be stuck in the middle and subjected to quite arbitrary and draconian measures imposed by the company trying to drive training through the workforce. These measures can include penalties where training is charged regardless of attendance or training levies where departments subscribe to the training provision regardless of whether or not they use it and in some instances training attendance is built into franchise standards. 
Return on Investment? 
So, let’s focus on the difficulty of measuring the Return on Investment (ROI). Academic ROI models exist to prove the value of the training. The Kirkpatrick Training Model is one example and is a framework for evaluating training programme effectiveness. The model was first introduced by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959 and has since become one of the most widely used models for assessing training success, sometimes used in conjunction with other academic models to provide as comprehensive evaluation as possible.  
 
So, let’s focus on the difficulty of measuring the Return on Investment (ROI). Academic ROI models exist to prove the value of the training. The Kirkpatrick Training Model is one example and is a framework for evaluating training programme effectiveness. The model was first introduced by Donald Kirkpatrick in 1959 and has since become one of the most widely used models for assessing training success, sometimes used in conjunction with other academic models to provide as comprehensive evaluation as possible.In effect, there are 5 levels of measurement: 
• Delegate satisfaction – this can be measured by a ‘smiley sheet’ at the end of a training course. Is the delegate happy? If yes, the course has added value 
• Knowledge gain – this can be measured by an end of course test. Did the delegate pass the test? If yes, the course has added value 
• Application of the knowledge or learning – the measurement of this can be tricky as it can only be evaluated once the delegate is back in their workplace, which can be difficult from the training provider’s perspective. Measurement could take the guise of a project which is completed and the results or findings submitted or signed off locally by the employing manager. In reality, this is only measuring that the employee has applied the learning at that point in time; it does not test that the employee is continuously applying their newly acquired knowledge 
• Impact on the people within the business by any change in behaviour of the delegate - this could be captured by 360 feedback within the workplace 
• Financial impact on the business – for example, uplift in sales or % change in customer satisfaction rating 
 
For each step to be effective, all other factors need to be isolated to ensure that you are only measuring the impact of the training. With effort, this can be done when devising the training from the outset but the difficulty arises when trying to retrofit a measurement of ROI on an existing course. If you ponder the considerable library of training material held by many larger companies, you soon see that the effort required to get any output far outweighs any potential gain. 
 
In our view, the trick to boosting employer engagement in training can be as simple as the language and vocabulary used. If you talk to the employing manager in L&D terms, you are probably going to lose them purely because it doesn’t mean anything tangible to them and their departmental objectives. Let’s face it as a Manager you know what your focus is and generally it is your month end performance. In the automotive industry, you’re only as good as your last month’s performance. And the automotive industry isn’t unique in this respect, it can be very brutal at the coal face for many managers. 
Have you been Steve? 
Let’s meet Steve. Steve is a manager who is tracking behind his departmental KPIs. Steve intellectually knows the importance of training but he also knows that his job relies on performance against these KPIs. Steve has a bonus incentive scheme so he personally gains when his KPIs are achieved. So when Steve is faced with a decision about sending an employee on training, he may be quite willing to take a hit on the imposed penalties because the consequences of reduced productivity is far greater. In this instance, Steve’s engagement in training is non-existent. 
 
So we must talk to managers in a language that they understand. We must establish how we link the courses that are available to employees, directly to the departmental performance and overall commercial performance of the business. It’s unlikely this will fix the problem but it will start to change the engagement levels as managers begin to see that this piece of training directly links to performance. 
So if we revisit Steve’s situation – Steve knows he is tracking behind but if he also knows that part of the reason he is tracking behind is because his team do not have the required knowledge and the training course offered directly impacts particular KPIs then by releasing the individuals to gain the knowledge, he will have a greater chance of influencing his departmental performance. Training then becomes a lever with which Steve can affect the performance of his department. 
There will of course be a time lag – it won’t be an instant fix – but once Steve is confident that his team have the necessary knowledge, he can then focus on the issue of knowledge application locally within the workplace, something which is far more within his control. 
 
By adopting this approach, a company no longer needs to impose arbitrary or draconian penalties, as they are showing the real value of the training and empowering their managers to make better and more informed training decisions. 
Academic value 
Academics may still argue that solid ROI numbers are required…..how much money is it going to make? How many index points will the customer satisfaction be improved by? And we are certainly not dismissing the benefits of using such models but they need to be built in at the point of development, and not retrospectively. So much theory is applied when developing brand new course material, ensuring that content is delivered to the delegate in the most effective way with the most effective resources but at the same time we should be asking: 
• What is the purpose of this training? 
• Why are we delivering this training? 
• How will we measure the impact of this training? 
• How will the commercial performance of the business be affected? 
 
Perhaps the most important question to ask is who is the end user of this training? True L&D individuals will likely respond with the client, the employer, the delegate….but surely the customer who buy’s the product or service could be considered the ultimate end user? It is the shopper who has benefitted from the retail assistant being trained in advanced customer handling skills, or the driver whose vehicle can be seen sooner because the mechanic has been trained in how to change the automatic gearbox! For a number of years now we have referred to this as a ‘customer in, not training out’ approach. 
Conclusion 
When all is said and done, you train your people to help them be better at their job, so that your business is more profitable or has more longevity or produces a better quality output. Everything else is secondary. Some will say you train your people to engage them and to improve retention which is totally valid, but it is a by-product of the real reason. 
 
Wherever possible, the commercial performance of the business should always be layered into the development of new training. But in our opinion this is what is so often fundamentally lacking and could be the missing link to fix the issue of employer engagement. 
 
To find out more about our approach visit www.titanlearning.co.uk and check out Titan Learning©. 
Dave Bownes 
Director, 
Haynes Oliver Limited 
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