The Impact of Training is seldom measured (correctly)

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The reputation of human resources departments continues to be problematic. This is partly because executives don’t back their written and stated people strategy with the behaviour which should accompany it. Perhaps more importantly, though, is the general lack of business, strategy, and organisational change understanding you find in HR departments.  If you like to read more about this, read this article.

However, when business literacy increases and HR is starting to reflect more on its impact there are interesting hurdles along the way. One important trap is the training measurement trap. 

We see this regularly when it comes to measuring the impact of HR training efforts. In most companies training efforts are evaluated through learner reaction measures (questionnaires filled out by training participants).

It seems rather self-evident learner satisfaction is important. And it is, but perhaps not in the way we would think. It is important in terms of continued interest in training efforts and that is why lots of effort should be given to improving learner reaction measures. It is a so-called hygiene factor.

However, when a learner is dissatisfied with a training effort research evidence shows this is unlikely to have much, if any impact of actual transfer of learning to on-the-job application.

And it is this on-the-job application (transfer of learning) measurement that is typically missing in corporate training efforts.

Learning Retention Rates:

  • 5%: The average retention rate of powerpoint-driven training efforts (measured 2 weeks after the event);
  • 10%: If participants also engage in reading;
  • 20%: Add audio-visual means;
  • 30%: Add demonstration… ;
  • 50%: Add group discussions;
  • 65%: Add personalisation – how do my personal qualities contribute to this;
  • 75%: Add practice by doing…;
  • 80%+: Add explaining to others.


  1. Are you evaluating your training efforts?
  2. Are you using learner reaction measures?
  3. Are you using learner retention measures?



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