Training is a critical component in any organization’s strategy for innovation and continuous improvement. Yet, training is an area where the actual return-on-investment (ROI) is uncertain. Given the large expenditures for training in many organizations, it is important to develop tools that will help companies answer the following questions and improve the measurement of training effectiveness.

These tools need to provide a methodology to measure, evaluate, and continuously improve training, as well as the organizational and technical infrastructure (systems) to implement the methodology. We would like to know:

  • Is the training program effective?
  • How can we improve the program?
  • Did the program achieve the desired results at the lowest possible cost?

The emerging body of knowledge on transfer of training suggests a number of important propositions and conclusions. For example, the transfer “climate” can have a powerful impact on the extent to which people use newly acquired competencies back on the job. Delays between training and actual use on the job directly relate to skill decay. Social, peer, subordinate, and supervisor support all play a central role in transfer. And finally, it is possible to design intervention strategies to improve the probability of transfer. All four of these intervening factors affect the results of any given training program, and there are potentially other factors.

One might ask, “Why bother evaluating learning and knowledge transfer? If you evaluate organizational results, you will know if the training was ultimately successful.” The problem with this assertion is that you don’t really know if those results are due to training or to an intervening factor. Additionally, training does not always produce the desired organizational results. It is possible to gain important organizational knowledge by finding the causes of failed training.

In this article, I discuss learning intelligence systems and an approach to learning improvement. A learning intelligence system is an important connection between the measures of learning effectiveness that an LMS can provide and the larger enterprise metrics that indicate whether learning transferred. But this is not enough to ensure improvement of results at the enterprise level. For that, we must borrow some ideas from industry.