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Cheeks on seats = Good Training: Yes or No?

They come to your workshop, they stay, they go, they’ve learned. Right? Wrong.

Together workshop attendance and the “smile sheet” (the form you fill out after a workshop), are still too often the only ways that many of us track our training.

But when did you learn anything else from a smile sheet other than “The room was too hot”, “The lunch was too cold” or (hopefully!) “The trainer was really cool”?

Professional trainers recognize five levels of evaluating the effectiveness of their training, with the smile sheet being only Level 1 – and then only if you ask the right questions.

And I’ve asked some fairly irrelevant questions over the years! Questions that can’t give me answers about how confidently my trainees will be going back to their new workplace performance standards.

Creating effective compliance training can cost a bit more up front, but it pales in comparison to the cost of doing compliance training poorly. Sheri Winter, Caveo Learning

So I guess it’s not surprising that as recently as 2014, a survey of compliance training found that 72% of company staff still believed that measuring course completion rates was the way to measure the effectiveness of their training programs. Yes, that’s right, folks – just by counting “cheeks on seats”.

That’s not even Level 1 evaluation!

Over 50% of those respondents said they had difficulties measuring the effectiveness of their training. It’s serious: the authors concluded this was a weak link in many compliance programs.

How well are you evaluating the effectiveness of your environment and sustainability training? How well are your health & safety and quality colleagues doing it?

The globally accepted top level of evaluation is financial return on investment – ROI. And surveys show that many training programs are not evaluated beyond Levels 2 or 3.

So how can we get to Level 5 evaluation of our training outcomes?

Come to my next ROI workshop on 13 March to find out. And here are some more reasons why you should attend.

Compliance training is consistently a top priority for learning and development professionals:

  • in a 2013 survey, nearly a quarter (1%) of learning leaders said regulatory compliance training is the most important training they provide. Overall they ranked regulatory compliance second in importance behind only leadership development among the various types of training they deliver
  • in a 2017 survey, 37% of learning professionals said compliance training was the most important of 18 listed skills to train for, putting it fourth after the top-ranked skill of leadership/people management (52%).

More than that, good training in general is vital for attracting and retaining the best people, and for in-house development of workplace-specific skills that are in short supply in the market.

Good organizations explore ways to recruit, retain, and train their employees. The rest make it easy to poach their best talent. Jessica Miller-Merrell, Workology

But employees leave companies with poor training, according to a 2012 report:

  • 41% of employees at companies with inadequate training programs plan to leave within a year, compared with 12% of employees at companies that provide excellent training and professional development programs
  • lack of employer concern for staff development was one of the top 4 reasons employees leave
  • for every top performer that leaves, an average of 2 other top performers follow
  • the cost of losing a top performer is 3x more than losing an average performer.

That’s a scary glimpse of the real cost of inadequate training! But switched around, it turns into big savings. The cost of staff turnover is very high, even for staff with few formal qualifications. Money saved by reduced staff turnover because of your great training is just one of the many dollar benefits your ROI will deliver.

I’d like to think this will capture the attention of your managers, don’t you?

If you’d like to learn more about how to measure the dollar return on YOUR training, then my ROI workshop is for you!


  • Find out more about my ROI Workshop here, or grab your early bird ticket here: this special price expires on 15 February!
  • Read the 2014 report that found ineffective training was a weak link in many compliance programs here
  • Where is compliance on the list of learning and development professionals’ training priorities? Read the 2013 article here and the 2017 report here.
  • Startling Stats: See the amazing 2012 PayCom infographic here and read Jessica Miller-Merrell’s article here.

My recent blogs on ROI are at: