Despite years of strong evaluation efforts in the United States, evaluating training only recently became a major topic for human resource professionals in Japan. Several Japanese companies have begun to think beyond the traditional one-to-three-day training courses and strive to create a comprehensive system for improving human performance. They question the value of subjectively designed courses, look at processes that facilitate behavioral change and knowledge transfer, and are concerned with connecting training programs to corporate strategy. Interest in more scientific evaluation approaches and analysis has increased significantly.

In response to this growing interest in ROI and evaluation, Japan's Human Resources Development Association surveyed 1,000 Japanese organizations to study the methods, technologies, and skills that can improve training assessments.

While at first glance the survey results indicated that training is connected to business challenges, further analysis shows that this connection is not being made sufficiently. Because company challenges are changing rapidly, human resource policies need to be well coordinated with corporate strategy, and companies need to review and adjust these policies more regularly.

The good news is that 90 percent of the companies surveyed evaluate their training programs. The not-so-good news is that 63 percent of the respondents feel that their evaluation assessments are inadequate. Specifically, most of the companies do not use evaluations to compare training effectiveness to other investments, nor do they relate training to their company's performance.

This led to three major topics of concern:

  1. human resource skills, particularly in assessments and needs analysis
  2. training methods, from e-learning to on-the-job training
  3. training themes, from working with new hires to career counseling and coaching.

Lessons Learned

Few human resource departments in Japan can confidently say that their training programs are contributing to their company's performance. Management will not be impressed by the hard work of human resource professionals who design training programs that don't connect to their company's specific business challenges.

While well along the right path, many Japanese organizations need to clarify management challenges and show how human resource programs can help meet those challenges.

Uichi Tsutsumi is an evaluation professional at the Human Resources Development Association in Japan. You can reach him at .

This article was translated by Kyoko Watanabe and Pat Patterson