Has this ever happened to you?
You read an article about new training technology.
It makes sense.
Of course we should be doing this.
Then you finish the article… and the little voices of doubt start creeping in. This all sounds great in theory… but how do you actually do it?
There’s one topic in particular that I find has this effect: Big Data and Training.
It’s an exciting concept, right?
Who doesn’t want the ability to see the whole picture of their training -- from granular employee data to application and business impact.
Think of all the things you could do with that kind of information -- from improving your future programs, to proving the importance of training to stakeholders at your organization.
It sounds like a dream right?
But then you start to get into the practicalities of it and it gets... overwhelming. Where should you start? How do you know what to track? And what kind of systems do you actually need to measure results?
It can feel impossible. Especially if data management isn’t your cup of tea.
But you can actually start collecting better data without a whole new system and without a ton of IT support.
You just have to make one small change.
Before before I explain what that change is, let’s briefly talk about why you should measure results in the first place.
Why Measure Training Results
Tracking your training program’s effectiveness is important, for a couple different reasons.
1. You need to know whether or not you achieved what you set out to do
Did employees learn everything you needed to teach them? Did they complete the course? Have they applied that training to their jobs?
Without accurate data you’ll be stuck guessing at the success of your program. And there’s nothing worse than having to say “I think it did well” to your boss.
2. You can use past data to improve future programs
Having accurate data on your program lets you make informed, data-backed decisions about future programs. You’ll be able to easily identify your program’s strengths and weaknesses.
And you can use that data to improve your future programs -- addressing skill gaps, and choosing the engagement tactics that worked best.
3. You’ll be able to prove your program’s ROI & importance
When you have proof your training worked, it makes it easier to justify its necessity. Not to mention being able to say “my training program increased employee compliance by 70%” is a surefire way to look like a total boss to stakeholders.
4. You can use data to justify your budget -- and even ask for more next year
This is a big one. Saying, “this training program worked -- and I can prove it” is a great way to justify a bigger training budget next year.
You can show exactly what kind of ROI stakeholders can expect from the increased spending, based on real numbers -- not just educated guesses.
Pretty neat right?
Okay, so now that we’ve established why it’s important to track training results, let’s get back to that tip I promised you earlier. The one simple change you can make today to start measuring your training results like a total boss.
The Easiest Way to Track Training Results -- Adding a Baseline Test
Yup, the easiest -- and most important -- change you can make to start tracking your training results is simply adding a baseline test.
Baseline tests are the easiest thing you can add to your training program to accurately measure ROI and effectiveness. It doesn’t even matter what kind of training you are running -- from an instructor led course to a fully gamified solution, every program can benefit from a baseline test.
The idea is simple: craft a baseline test to measure what employees know before training starts. Then compare employees’ grades post-training to their baseline test answers to get an accurate idea of how much they learned.
It’s pretty simple. But baseline tests are key to getting any usable insights out of your data.
Afterall, if you don’t know what employees knew before they started, you can’t actually say you taught them anything. Even if they all got 100% on their training tests, you wouldn't be able to say you improved their knowledge.
Maybe they all already knew that information.
And in that case, your training wouldn’t have been effective it all -- it would have been a waste of time and resources. But you’d never know unless you first measured employees’ existing knowledge.
How to Build an Effective Baseline Test
While baseline tests are absolutely imperative to accurately measuring your training results, you have to be careful when writing them.
If you don’t follow best practices, you can accidently skew the results.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when crafting your baseline test, so you get the most accurate report possible.
1. Match Questions to Your Training Objectives
Think about what you want employees to learn. Those key objectives should be reflected in your baseline test, so you can accurately measure whether or not they were achieved.
For example, in phishing awareness training, you might want to ensure employees know:
Tell tale signs of a phishing email
Proper procedure for reporting phishing emails
What they should do if they think they clicked on a phishing email
What the risks of phishing are to the organization
So in your baseline test, you would want at least 4 questions that addressed these main learning objectives.
1. Which of the following is NOT a characteristic of a spear phishing email?
a. Spelling mistakes
b. Unusual request that’s time sensitive
c. Link goes to a different site than listed
d. From the CEO
e. Don’t Know
2. What should you do if you suspect an email is a phishing scam?
a. Send it to IT
b. Delete it immediately
c. Open it to be sure
d. All of the Above
e. Don’t Know
3. What should you do if you think you clicked on a phishing email?
a. Contact IT immediately
b. Delete the email and run a virus scan
c. Don’t tell anyone
d. None of the Above
e. Don’t Know
4. What risks does phishing pose to our organization?
a. Hurts our reputation
b. Could cause a data breach
c. Could be victims of ransomware
d. All of the Above
e. Don’t Know
2. Use Questions Similar to Ones in Your Training Content
Being able to make a direct comparison between questions in your baseline test to questions in the training makes it really easy to prove learning growth.
For example, if an employee gets “What are all the ways customers purchase our products?” wrong on the baseline test, but right in the training, you can (with some confidence) say that your training caused the change; they learned the right answer because of your program.
Of course you can’t replicate every single question from your training content in your baseline test. Nor should you. The idea is simply to choose existing questions that best reflect your learning objectives. Then use those questions on your baseline test.
This way you can compare answers on the baseline test to answers in the training program for a more accurate view of learning growth.
3. Follow Best Practices for Formulating Questions
Good questions can be tricky to write. And when they’re on a baseline test you need to make sure you aren’t skewing the results with either impossible questions or really easy ones.
Follow these best practices for better questions.
- Avoid corporate marketing jargon.
- Stop using "Over" "Up to" and "Approximately"
- Keep answers around the same length.
- Don't always make the biggest number the right one.
All these common mistakes make it easy for your employees to guess the right answer, even if they don't understand the question.
Related Reading: How to Write Effective Quiz Questions Every Time
The Bottom Line
Adding a baseline test is an easy way to get a better sense of how effective your training program is. Of course there are other ways to measure your training success -- and certainly more complicated ways as you start to analyze application and business impact.
But knowing where you’re starting from is absolutely critical to prove any sort of ROI, regardless of what you’re measuring.
You need to know where you’re starting from, before you can measure how far you got.
And the easiest way to do that is with a baseline test.