3 Deadly Evaluation Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Training


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It’s budgeting season for many companies, which means your training programs may be at risk. 

Many of my clients are looking for cheaper ways to deliver customer service training. They’re facing pressure from executives to cut costs, but they don’t have hard data to prove their training program is working.

Others are trying to get new funding for expansion, but they’re having an equally tough time making their case.

Forget the lofty platitudes like “training is an investment” or “it will help our employees grow.” You’ll need to back up those statements with some real numbers if you want them to fly in the c-suite.

Here are three deadly evaluation mistakes to avoid if you want to make a solid case.

Mistake #1: No goals

If your training program lacks goals, you’re sunk.

It’s impossible to evaluate training if you haven’t set any goals that provide a target to evaluate your program against. I don’t mean fluffy goals like “inspire employees to WOW customers” or some other platitude. Trust me, most executives find these worthless.

I’m talking about concrete goals that are set using the SMART model (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Here are some examples:

  • Customer service employees will reduce monthly escalations 15% by 12/31.
  • We will reduce customer churn by 10% by 1/31.
  • The Support Team will improve customer satisfaction 5 points by 2/28.

Setting goals often results in another important activity.

You need to have baseline measurements in place before you set a goal. It’s pretty hard to reduce monthly escalations by 15 percent if you don’t know how many escalations you have now, or why they’re happening. So, the goal-setting process often forces managers to start measuring how their department brings value to the business.

Mistake #2: No linkages

Many training programs fail to link the training to the goals. Here’s how a typical organization approaches training evaluation.

  1. Survey participants after the class
  2. ???
  3. Customer service improves

That part in the middle is absolutely critical. 

In his book, Telling Training’s Story, Robert Brinkerhoff outlines a simple method called a Training Impact Model for making that critical connection. You do it by working backwards from business goals to the training itself.

  1. Establish business goals (see Mistake #1)
  2. Determine results needed from employees to achieve the goals.
  3. List actions needed to accomplish desired results.
  4. Identify knowledge and skills needed for those actions.

Here’s an example for reducing escalations:

  • Goal: Reduce monthly escalations 15% by 12/31
  • Results: Resolve issues to customers’ satisfaction without escalation
  • Actions: Apply the LAURA technique
  • Knowledge & Skills: Active listening, expressing empathy

So, my training in this case should focus on developing active listening skills and empathy. I’ll want to set clear learning objectives using the A-B-C-D model so I can easily evaluate whether training participants have actually learned the right skills.. 

And, I’ll also want to develop a workshop plan make sure employees aren’t considered fully trained until I can observe them using the LAURA technique on the job.

Mistake #3: No financials

You’d better have some numbers if you’re going to a budget meeting.

Many trainers are uncomfortable working with financials, so they avoid them. Or worse, they spout bogus metrics like telling people that ROI equals “Return on Inspiration.” (Sadly, that’s a true story.) 

Your CFO will laugh at you if you refer to ROI as Return on Inspiration.

You’ll need to come correct with some real financial figures instead. Fortunately, this isn’t too difficult if you’ve established clear goals that are linked to business results.

Let’s go back to the escalations goal we’ve used as example. The sample goal was reduce monthly escalations 15% by 12/31.

Connecting those escalations to financial results should be easy. First, calculate the average cost of an escalation. There are a few places you might look:

Revenue: Look at how much your average customer spends (per order, per year, etc.) and compare that to how much customers with escalations spend after they have an issue that’s been escalated. The escalations customers almost certainly spend less. Just for fun, lets say its $100 less per customer, per year.

Cost: Calculate the average cost of an escalation. For instance, if the average escalated call takes 15 minutes and is handled by someone making $20 per hour, then each escalation costs $5.

Projected Savings: Now, determine how much more money customers would spend and how much money you’d save with 15 percent fewer escalations. Prepare a nice report (showing your work) and share it with key stakeholders like your CFO.

The summary might look like this:

  • Each escalation costs $105 ($100 in lost revenue, $5 servicing cost)
  • A 15% reduction in escalation would equal 180 fewer escalations per year (based on 100 escalations per month).
  • $105 x 180 = $18,900 projected annual savings

Learn More

This short video provides five reasons why you should measure your training programs. 

It’s part of the How to Measure Learning Effectiveness Course on lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning. You’ll need a lynda.com or LinkedIn Premium subscription to view the course, but you can get a 10-day trial account on lynda.com.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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