Why Don't We Weigh Them?

 Written By: Gloria J. Gery*

Throughout the years, folks have developed measures for training effectiveness, satisfaction, and learning. All kinds of approaches from smile sheets to yardsticks have evolved. When I was running a data processing training organization at a large insurance company I once got disgusted with the statistics I had to submit each month. As the functional manager I was responsible for use of facilities, instructor resource, equipment, and assuring "value" for the training dollars spent on IT technical professionals and management -- and the user community. My monthly report had to list items such as:

  •        number of student days
  •        student/instructor ratio
  •        number of "no shows", drop-outs, and last minute cancellations
  •        dollars charged back to departments using training
  •        percent utilization of facilities
  •        cost per student-day
  •        average "satisfaction" scores on our "smile sheet" evaluations
  •        on-time completion and on-cost development of new courses
  •        actual vs. planned operational budget expenditures.

At a meeting one day, I suggested a new measurement criterion.

"Why don't we weigh the students and report on a cost per pound?"

A deep quiet overcame the meeting. It was finally broken by a softly spoken question.


I guess I was being given a chance to reconsider, but I didn't take it.

"Why don't we install a scale in the entry way," I said, "like the one they use for cattle. We can have each student stand on the scale before entering class each day. We can then calculate the return on our investment by volume."

Needless to say, this attitude was a subject for much discussion both on that day and on my annual appraisal. While I wasn't exactly serious, the idea didn't seem any more irrelevant than some of the success indicators I was reporting on monthly.

None of the measurements I was supposed to take asked if anyone learned anything or if our interventions changed their performance.

One of the men who worked with me was angry about my attitude. He said: "Do you know what your problem is?" (Note: it's always a bad sign when somebody starts talking about "what your problem is.")

"No", I responded.

"You're trying to get the right numbers instead of making the numbers come out right!" he said.

I am still working on a response to that one. But I long ago gave up trying to make the numbers come out right in favor of finding the best way to measure what we're trying to accomplish.

Today, I encourage different measures. It's much easier to actually employ these assessments in a performance support environment because the connections between performance support in the actual work context is so much more direct than the distance between training events and work performance. That very statement says a lot, doesn't it?

Let me share some of the objectives and measurements that rule my work today.

  •        decreased time to understanding
  •        decreased time to performance
  •        reduced performance cycle times (associated with a task, process, customer                   interaction, deliverable, creation, etc.
  •        reduced implementation costs (for a system, product, new process, etc.)
  •        reduced support costs (number of coaches per group)
  •        reduced handoffs of work, calls, problems to others
  •        increased customer satisfaction with organization representatives as measured by           surveys, follow-up calls, complaint activity
  •        quality improvements
  •        ability to shift work to less experienced employees or to customers
  •        reduced transaction costs
  •        decreasing the gap between less experienced and star performers
  •        competitive differentiation as reported by customers
  •        organizational flexibility
  •        increased performer confidence -- and confidence by those they work or interact               with

When an organization can accomplish something like institutionalizing best practice into the work situation and make performance less a focus of individual competence and more a function of the environment itself, weighing people just doesn't come to mind for me. Does it for you?

*Originally published in CBT Solutions Magazine, May/June 1997

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