Measuring Employee Development: A More Effective Approach

Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig
Sep 28 2023
8 min read
Measuring Employee Development: A More Effective Approach

An employee development program that does not include proper measurement processes is like running a business without an accountant – you are spending money blindly.

But more than that, lack of employee growth is by far the most common reason for somebody to leave a job. Training and evaluation of the results is therefore essential for increasing employee retention. Any company that implements an employee learning and development program must understand how to measure it.

But how accurate – and practical – are current methods of employee development tracking and measurement?

Why is measuring employee development so important? 

Employee Satisfaction

After putting the effort into learning new skills, methods of working, and ways of thinking, employees want to see the results of their work. This goes beyond just a temporary feeling of satisfaction. As research has shown, the main reason for employee turnover is that individuals feel a lack of professional development.

A high rate and frequency of churn is bad for employees, but it can also be a disaster for a business because replacements are expensive to find and train. Studies show that it can cost up to nine months of a salaried employee’s earnings to hire a replacement.

As part of overall training efforts, measuring the effectiveness of employee development plans also shows workers that they are important to the firm and are part of its future. Ensuring that employees are engaged is a win-win situation; compared to companies that don’t have workers who are invested in their employer’s best interests, an engaged workforce leads to more than a 200% increase in performance.

ROI Assessment

In 2019, corporations invested about $333 billion on training their employees, and over the next decade, this expenditure is expected to increase by about 10% a year. That’s a lot of money, and any sane business needs to know how much return they are getting on such an investment.

Program Improvement

Employees might not be satisfied with a learning and development program, either because it was unpleasant, created no benefits, or was not comprehensive enough. Similarly, a business may not see the kind of bottom-line benefits that it was expecting.  In all of these cases, the crux of the matter is that the program needs revision. Accurate measurement enables a firm to know if and how a different approach needs to be taken.

Traditional employee development measurement 

In light of the importance of employee development, the L&D industry has created a large number of tools and strategies for collecting and processing feedback and results from learning programs.

There are a variety of formats that can be applied to determine skill level and employee experience with the learning process. These formats include direct discussions with managers and HR staff; post-program quizzes and exams; surveys; and questionnaires.

In addition, a wide range of evaluation models can be applied to process this information. These include:

  • Anderson’s Model of Learning Evaluation
  • The CIRO Model
  • Kaufman’s Five Levels of Evaluation
  • Kirkpatrick’s Four-level Training Evaluation Model
  • The Phillips ROI Model

Each evaluation model has its own area of analysis specialty. For example, the Phillips ROI Model focuses on financial returns, while the CIRO Model is meant to evaluate management training in particular.

The problem is that these models are complicated to implement and difficult to maintain.

What metrics should we look at when measuring employee development?

Effective growth programs have an impact on an employee’s hard and soft skills, knowledge, and performance. The two basic steps for being able to measure this impact are:

  • Setting goals and objectives so that progress and end results can be identified and assessed
  • Evaluating these goals and objectives before, during, and after training

It is essential to determine metrics before the development program starts so that a baseline can be established. This will become the reference used to see if progress has been made at various times during and after the program.

Exact metrics can be complicated to determine. If, for instance, a programmer is learning a new language, then a programming test can be administered and a quantitative scale used to grade the test.

But if the employee is aiming for a more extensive goal, defining metrics becomes much more difficult. Let’s say a salesperson wants to be promoted to manager. The program required for this move might include employee management skills, sales management skills, and the use of relevant software.

In this case, metrics need to be set and monitored for each part of the program. In some cases, quantitative data can be used – for example, to see if sales revenue has increased. In other cases, interviews (or another qualitative assessment method) need to be conducted with employees and managers to gauge the progress of the employee’s soft skills.

The problem with measurement at scale

Ultimately, a system for measuring employee development can be quite complicated. For every part of the measurement process – an evaluation method and the metrics that apply to every training goal – there are numerous routes that need to be picked and followed. Now, multiply this process by the number of employees who you want to develop, as well as by the number of skills in which they need to improve. What you get is something that looks more like a software design decision tree than a practical method for evaluating progress. It all boils down to a massive HR burden that is difficult and expensive to administer.

It is a similar story with ROI. It can be difficult to link cause and effect when it comes to showing how much revenue was created as the result of a growth program. For instance, if sales improve, this might be the result of employee growth, or a better product, or a more efficient logistics chain, or a new marketing campaign… the possibilities go on and on.

A flawed system that doesn’t work

Looking at these complex methods belies a simple fact: they don’t seem to work. If companies are using the correct processes to evaluate the success of L&D programs, then a poor score would result in changing that program. After many years and billions spent on learning and measurement, and lots of chances to optimize, L&D programs should be achieving an impressive level of success.

But that’s not happening. Statistics from a survey in this Harvard Business Review article say a lot about the usefulness of both training programs and the methods used to assess them:

  • 75% of managers are not satisfied with training programs
  • 70% of employees report that they don’t have a good grasp of necessary skills
  • Only 25% of employees say that training improved their performance

A simplified and precise measurement solution

GrowthSpace has taken a different, “radically simple,” approach to the problem. Namely, it focuses less on process and more on people, while greatly simplifying measurement methods. Most importantly,  GrowthSpace built a manager-involved model. This allows for an objective 3rd party to evaluate the process in parallel to the employee.

As elementary as that seems, manager-involved development is a new concept.

When an employee kicks off their growth sprint, they and their manager both clearly define what challenges they want to work on. This helps them define what success will look like for the program.

As the program continues, both the employee and manager are asked for feedback to determine effectiveness.

Instead of various questionnaires, interviews, and meetings, two things happen:

  1. Employees are asked to grade six aspects of the program according to a 1-5 scale
  2. Managers are asked (again, using a 1-5 scale):
  • How much did the program impact the selected KPI?
  • How did the program perform with regards to the challenge, overall performance, and motivation?
  • Would you recommend this program to other employees/managers?

And that’s it. Two people answer a total of nine questions, and only with a numerical score. Feedback is gathered halfway through the course and again at the end.

The result is a short and simple evaluation process and a result that is quantitative, and so easily understood and reported. This approach saves time for everyone involved and is simple enough for busy employees and managers to rapidly comprehend and complete. The results make it clear where the employee stands in regards to both the desired personal goals as well as business KPIs.

GrowthSpace’s measurement technique is only the beginning of what makes it a totally new approach to L&D. The platform is one-of-a-kind in today’s market, in that no other one-on-one employee development program platform uses any sort of measurement the way GrowthSpace does. By offering businesses critical insight into how each employee is progressing on their path to specific goals, companies are able to reach their KPIs faster. GrowthSpace has applied the idea of simplicity to the entire process of employee development, all as part of our mission to help employees at all levels achieve great things and meet their potential.

Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig
Eric Bierig is an organizational development strategist at Growthspace. With an MSc in Industrial Organizational Psychology and experience in Talent and Organizational Development roles in various organizations, Eric leverages his subject matter expertise to share knowledge and best practices, build guides and materials, develop & execute new and impactful programs and products, and help enable both Growthspace and their customers in achieving their strategic initiatives. Eric is a husband, a father, an amateur musician, an avid hockey fan (Lets Go Rangers!) and a functional cereal addict

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