The Training Measurement Book: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: October 6th, 2012 by bobmorris

The Training Measurement Book: Best Practices, Proven Methodologies, and Practical Approaches
Josh Bersin
Pfeiffer/A Wiley Imprint (2008)

A rigorous examination of “pragmatic, actionable, specific best practices, processes and methodologies”

According to Josh Bersin, the material in this book is based on the results of surveys that he and his associates conducted among more than 600 C-level executives in 2005-2007. One of the most important revelations is that more than 90% identified performance measurement as being either most important or next most important on their list of what to improve. In 2007, they conducted research among more than 700 HR and learning executives indicated that only 4% rated their learning programs were “fully aligned” with talent needs, and, only 15% rated them “well-aligned.” These additional revelations also caught my eye.

While acknowledging the important work of others, Bersin asserts that the models offered by Donald Kirkpatrick and Jack Phillips, specifically, “limit an organization’s thinking and make the measurement process difficult to implement.” (Others are far better qualified than I am to comment on this assertion.) Bersin also asserts that organizations need more than what these models offer. In this volume, he introduces and then examines the Business Impact Model® and the Impact Measurement Framework®; then he recommends a seven-step training measurement process to implement both.

I especially appreciate the fact that all of Bersin’s insights and recommendations are based on a wealth of research data; also that he provides within his narrative a number of real-world examples and mini-case studies based on a wide variety of exemplary companies that include Caterpillar, Defense Acquisition University, Eaton, EDS, FedExKinko’s, HP, KPMG, McDonald’s, Pep Boys, Saks Fifth Avenue, Wells Fargo, and Wendy’s. Six appendices provide a substantial value-added-benefit:

I and II: Case studies of Ranstad and HP
III: “The State of Training Measurement Today”
IV: “Examples [`Snapshots’] of Learning Measurements”
V: “Specific Learning Measures”
VI: “Training Analytics Specifications”

Bersin insists (and I agree) that:

o   The purpose of measuring any business process is to obtain actionable information for improvement.
o   A measurement program should not be designed to cost-justify training.
o   Measurement should be – and be perceived to be – a business support function.
o   A measurement program must meet the needs of multiple audience.
o   Measurement should be an on-going process, not a project.
o   The Learning management System (LMS) is a foundation for measurement.
o   Sufficient resources must be committed to an LMS.
o   Because training measure requires patience, it is best to start simply and evolve over time.

These are the eight general principles of training management on which the Business Impact Model® and Impact Measurement Framework® are based. Bersin thoroughly explains both in Chapter 4 and then, in the next chapter, shifts his attention to the seven-step training measurement process. In Chapters 6-8, he offers eminently practical advice with regard to measuring business impact (e.g. simplify the problem, use line-of-business-specific measures, and integrate with performance measurement processes), measuring alignment (he cites Caterpillar University’s planning and budgeting process and CNA’s “learning and investment portfolio”), and measuring customer satisfaction (he explains what various Six Sigma processes offer and then suggests how to “operationalize” customer satisfaction). To Bersin’s credit, after he briefly but carefully identifies what must be done throughout the seven-step training measurement process, he devotes the bulk of his attention to explaining how to do what must be done.

Special mention should be made of the dozens of “Figures” that are inserted throughout Bersin’s narrative. These reader-friendly devices facilitate, indeed accelerate periodic review of material long after the book has been read. I also appreciate the skillful use of checklists, bold face, and italics that focus on the key points within each chapter. This is especially important, given the wealth of information that Bersin provides. I do offer one caveat: With all due respect to the Business Impact Model® and the Impact Measurement Framework®, it would be a fool’s errand for any reader to attempt to adopt them or any one business model and framework in their entirety.

For decision-makers in any organization (whatever its size and nature may be), however, the first five steps of the training measurement process are essential. As Bersin explains in Chapter 5, the most valuable step most organizations need is the sign-off process (which is often missing) and the basic Level 1 surveys. As for the other two steps, follow-up evaluation for the learner (#6) and follow-up evaluation for the manager (#7), he believes they are optional. I strongly disagree. Managers who fund training as well as those who receive it should be included among those who are viewed as “customers.” Their evaluations can be of incalculable value if the information obtained from them is pragmatic, actionable, and specific.

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