Training & Development Metrics – “what’s on your dashboard?”

This article presents some views and some background for those internal Learning & Development specialists seraching for the “holy grail” in terms of their own functions ROI on learning & development.

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Who are the “experts” in learning & development metrics? Who are the valuable contributors in the search for “ultimate evaluation” in learning & development functions?

I offer on my list:

Donald Kirkpatrick – Four level model of training evlauation

Dr Jac Fitzenz – The ROI of Human Capital

Dr Jack Phillips – The ROI Institute

Dr Laurie McBassi – Human Capital Analytics

Robert O Brinkerhoff – The success case evaluation method

Jay Cross – The power of informal learning/e-learning

R.A. Guzzo & B.A. Gannett – Inhibitors to effective task performance

What really matters to the organisation though? I would offer:

1. The efficiency of learning function itself

2. The organisation’s key performance indicators, its benchmarking & its capacity

3. Return on investment

4. Psychological capital

I’d like to look at each of these in turn and in doing so begin to offer some thoughts on what the L & D’s Return on Investment “Dashboard” might contain.

1. Learning function efficiency.

Here the choices are numerous and what suits one organisation, may not suit another. On offer as potential metrics are:

a) Training days per member of staff b) Training days per member of part time staff c) Training days per casual staff member d) Equality of opportunity/test of fairness across items a, b & c above e) Off-the-job training days f) Training spend as % of salary bill/payroll g) % of staff with personal development plans

Etc. etc. my list has another 12 items on it and it’s still going …………..

2. Key performance indicators, benchmarking & capacity

Here we begin to examine what the organisation’s vision, values and key performance indicators may be saying about the metrics it wishes to the L & D function to consider.

Again, here the choices are numerous and what suits one organisation, may not suit another. On offer as potential metrics are:

a) Revenue per employee b) Profit per employee c) Sales per employee d) Employee satisfaction survey e) Performance management review data – upward movements f) Management feedback g) Achievement of learning and development initiatives contributing to KPIs etc.

Etc. etc. my list has another 5 items on it and it’s still going …………..

3. Return on Investment

For me, this is the move in thinking from evaluating training to valuing learning. Firstly, this requires us to ensure that we have included provision for the type of evaluation in our training budget i.e. planned to evaluate as part of our plan. Secondly, it requires us to now consider some further possible metrics:

a) Time to competence b) Proportion of employees with required competence level c) Customer feedback data d) Employees engagement data e) Number of individuals able to move into key positions f) Organisational, team & indivudual achievement against performance management criteria g) Cost/benefit data for specific learning interventions h) Performance data on targets i.e. absence, retention, internal promotions etc

4. Psychological capital

As my mentors in CIPD would want me to point out, I’m sure, the other area for potential metrics is psychological capital. Let’s have a definition first:

““The sum of positive opinion about the organisation held by people OUTSIDE the organisation”

How the organisation is perceived is divided into 3 types:

– Producer of goods and services – brand image? Utility of product? Social acceptability of product?

– Employer – great place to work?

– Corporate citizen – ecological stance? Contributions to charity? Assistance to region/town

This effectively brings in to play, external benchmarking criteria and the opportunity to extend the metrics into areas such as:

a) Quality Awards

b) Business Awards

c) Egon Ronay/Michelin etc.

d) ISO 9000

e) Brand recognition studies

f) Fortune “Best Companies to Work for” Index

g) European Commission “Best 100 Employers”

h) Investors in People Framework

i) Sunday Times Top 100 Companies

j) FTSE Index of socially responsible companies

What should the metrics be on your L & D dashboard?


Strategy – script or scripture?

“Speak English! said the Eaglet. I don’t know the meaning of half of those long words, and what’s more, I don’t believe you do either!” – Lewis Carroll

This month, I move into my 20th year of mentoring, advising and helping to develop small & medium sized organisations

It still strikes me that language can serve to confuse the fundamental business of management which is to make decisions and to take action.

“The end products of managers’ work are decisions and actions” – Peter Drucker

Of course, at a certain level those decisions and actions become more far-reaching.

As a consultant, I can provide the agenda, ideas on possible frameworks, ideas on the content, but I still remain convinced that the script needs to be written and owned by management.

The script defines the journey, provides for education & reflection and cannot afford to be misunderstood.

“The first act, it’s who are the people and what is the situation of this whole story.

The second act is the progression of that situation to a high point of conflict and great problems.

The third act is how the conflicts and problems are resolved.” – Ernest Lehman

My sense is that structure is an effective template for rewriting and strengthening the impact of the organisation’s story.

But we shouldn’t get imprisoned by it. We need to work with the characters in the senior team and with their story that ignites our passion.

You can then apply structural principles to ensure that your script will powerfully touch the widest possible audience.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela


The OD Consultant – what does good look like?


The National Occupational Standards for Management and Business Consultancy have been developed by researching international best practice in consultancy.

The Standards are divided into 4 sections:

  1. Develop and manage relationships
  2. Work with the client to identify their needs and agree solutions
  3. Support the client in achieving sustainable solutions
  4. Maintain professional standing.

These are not necessarily intended to form a chronological sequence, however what is clear is that “effective consultants transfer knowledge and skills and build their clients’ capacity and competence at the same time as providing support to implement solutions”.

I’m reminded of the “Practitioner values” (J. Stewart 1991) needed in managing change in order “to achieve external adaptation and internal integration” …………………




For me these are “core” characteristics, or indeed competencies?

These are no better exampled than in an extract from the “Barefoot Guide” (

“I spent a winter with them, watching how they talked, the way the director would turn when asked a question; the subtle order of tea and coffee.

They asked: ‘When will we start changing?’ They said: ‘Nice work if you can get it. What is it you actually do?’

I smiled and shared their jokes; I asked them what they thought they were, animal, plant, mineral, machine.

At first, they were hesitant and recited the company line and spoke eloquently of vision, mission, goals. No heart.

But one day over lunch a quiet secretary whispered that they were an orchestra only some of the instruments had been neglected and most were out of tune.

I went along to a rehearsal and sure enough there were broken strings, a battered flute, a drum whose skin was torn. And still I listened.

A board member waylaid me in the stalls. ‘We are a ship,’ he said, ‘more or less sound, but battered by the storm.’ I looked out of the window and truly the horizon was askew.

The woman who headed HR reminded me of the calibre of the crew But the woman who made the tea said ‘ No-one speaks to me.’

I was the loom on which they wove the cloth of their past, their present and at last their future. I was the canvas on which they drew the cartoon strip of their progress.

I’d brought a bag of tools but, to be frank I never opened it. They had their own, unusual, but well-adapted for use by musicians on a stormy sea.

While they patched holes and mended strings, I was their temporary harbour.

For a while I was popular and enjoyed a certain notoriety but slowly they became absorbed in their own music, plotted their own course. They were so busy listening to each other, they forgot me.

I left them sailing up the Amazon playing a Strauss waltz conducted by the woman who made the tea”.

For a copy of the Management Consultancy Competence overview used in my Masters Diploma accreditation, e-mail

Competency Frameworks and Brand Identity

We are currently working with a client at a strategic level to develop a competency framework that can be of benefit to our client’s clients.

Firstly, it will afford the client’s clients a unique opportunity to examine and select the underpinning knowledge & skills distinctly required for their particular project.

Secondly, it will ensure that the respective brand values and cultures are better aligned.

Of course, the most common uses of these frameworks are for:

– selection & assessment

– reviewing performance & appraisal

– training & development

– paying and grading

In this particular project, we have taken a classic knowledge, skills and behaviours approach (KSB) to develop:

1. A Knowledge & Skills matrix which exists at three levels: Entry, Developmental & Expert.

2. A Behavioural framework, based upon corporate values which also exists at three levels: Good, Better, Best.

Communication is the key to any successful competency framework initiative to ensure people continue to understand the purpose of the framework and how it will be used and kept up to date.

Incorporating any framework into any organisation’s people management practices is a challenging task which is best undetaken in stages. Training of line managers(end users) is imperative to use it effectively. Form there it can be “drip fed” into various other processes until it is embedded in the organisational culture.

Early signs are that this business tool can add value to business relationshiops.

Emerging ambition

Image result for mark twain the secret to getting ahead

We recently published an article on “Future Skills Planning – A seven step process” in which we discussed why it is essential to have a people development plan that starts with the organisation’s ambition.

In that article we suggested following a structured approach by working through our recommended series of questions.

“Global Talent 2021 – a study conducted by Oxford Economics and Towers Watson”, has also identified a top twenty of emerging skill sets for the future.

The questions and the checklist may help in constructing that development plan based upon your organisation’s ambition.


  • Foreign language skills
  • Ability to manage diverse employees
  • Understanding international markets
  • Ability to work in multiple overseas locations
  • Understanding international markets

Digital skills

  • Digital business skills
  • Ability to work virtually
  • Understanding of corporate IT software & systems
  • Digital design skills
  • Ability to use social media

Agile thinking

  • Ability to consider and prepare for multiple scenarios
  • Dealing with complexity and ambiguity
  • Innovation
  • Managing paradoxes, balancing opposing views
  • Ability to see the big picture

Building relationship

  • Relationship building with customers, partners, governments etc.
  • Teaming (including virtual teaming)
  • Co-creativity and brainstorming
  • Collaboration
  • Oral and written communications

In no particular order, but a really useful checklist to get started with.



Can your management team support engagement?


Research by the Corporate Leadership Council suggests that manager-led actions that impact on employee engagement fall into two sets of development needs.

1. Performing a dual role

a) Managing employee work and their performance

b) Managing an employee’s relationship with their organisation

2. Possessing competencies that are proven to support employee engagement

a) Setting realistic performance expectations

b) Articulating organisational goals

c) Breaking work projects into manageable “chunks”

d) Encouraging and committing to innovation

e) Encouraging and working with the differences between people

f) Adapting to changing circumstances

g) Continuously connecting work and organisational goals

h) Accurately evaluating employee potential

This research can be vital when considering investment in your management team. It’s also vital to consider your business goals and any future changes in the organisation as these too have an impact on the competencies your managers will need to manage employees under these circumstances.

Subject to Appraisal?


Our concerns about performance appraisal are not new :

– “judgemental & demotivating” (McGregor 1960)

– “falling apart at the seams” (Margerison 1976)

– a deadly disease” (Deeming 1982)

However, what is continuing to happen, as predicted, is that “performance appraisal is giving way to a more purposeful and systematic form of performance management” (Bach 2004).

Performance management must remain at the heart of HR practices and will continue to become more rounded via technology and need to be more reflective of its own diversity needs.

So, how do employers ensure that appraisal plays a significant part in their overall performance management activities?

The answer lies in maintaining a strategic approach where:

  1. There is still a systematic link between the contribution of each employee and the organisation’s success.

This should be a “bottom-up”, not “top-down” approach that ensures the organisation understands its employees, what shapes their engagement with the organisation and how their values can be harnessed for organisational success.

  1. Line managers are competent to take on their responsibilities for HR practices, thus freeing HR as a function to become more strategically focused on retaining that systematic link.

What we may need is a fit for purpose performance management process (designed specifically for the organisation as a cycle of integrated activities) as part of a bottom-up engagement strategy.