If you're a training professional seeking to show the
contribution of learning and development to the business, the
action-planning process is a proven transfer and measurement
strategy to add to your toolkit.
A call center implements an intensive customer service training
initiative designed to reduce call escalations. A dynamic
manufacturing environment rolls out comprehensive performance
standards for an enterprise-wide quality initiative intended to
decrease assembly cycle times. A state agency determines that
management skill gaps in coaching and development have adversely
affected attraction and retention of key personnel and that
competency-based management development programs and processes are
the best solution to closing skill gaps.
What do each of these scenarios have in common? Each initiative
addresses a critical business need, represents a substantial
investment of time and resources, commands high visibility and
management interest, and requires the accomplishment of specific,
measurable performance objectives that are linked to strategic
business goals. In addition, each of these solutions lends itself
to the use of action-planning as a method to drive on-the-job
application of the critical skill sets needed to achieve desired
What is an action plan?
Action-planning is a powerful and flexible process for managing and
measuring the performance objectives of a training solution and
ensuring that objectives are effectively aligned with desired
business results. A key output of the process is an action plan
document that contains detailed steps to accomplish specific goals
connected to targeted performance objectives. Plans can be
completed by project participants working individually or in teams.
The action plan answers such questions as:
- What steps or action items will be taken as a result of
- What on-the-job improvements or accomplishments will be
realized with participants' applied skills and knowledge?
- How much improvement can be linked to the program?
In cases where action-planning is used to measure business impact
measures and ROI, an action plan can also provide data about the
- monetary value of improvement
- intangible benefits of a program
- enablers and barriers to applying learned skills and knowledge
- environmental influences (i.e., reward systems, feedback
processes) related to performance improvement or lack of
This data helps answer questions about a training solution's value
and allows training professionals to set priorities, eliminate
unsuccessful programs, or reinvent those that are successful but
In general, follow these guidelines when using action plans to
determine a training solution's cost benefit:
- To be conservative, have participants estimate only annual
- If no improvement values are available from a specific source
on an action plan, assume that little to no improvement has
- Omit extreme data items and unsupported claims on an action
plan when calculating improvement values.
- Ensure credibility by having participants estimate the effect
of other influences upon performance improvement.
The role of managers and supervisors
A well-managed action-planning process includes management support
and review. Managers are more likely to embrace this approach when
the linkage between participants' behavior and predetermined
business measures is clearly defined. Managers can be instrumental
in conveying the importance and value of action-planning before
setting the process in motion, as well during the opening segments
of a program in which action-planning is required.
The key to success with action-planning as a learning transfer and
measurement strategy is to build it into the entire cycle of
performance improvement. This includes analysis, design, delivery,
and evaluation. The following tips will help you get started.
- Integrate action-planning into the entire performance
- Ensure that participants are capable of providing estimates
about the value of business measures being monitored.
- Utilize partnerships. Enlist managers' support in aligning the
performance objectives of an action plan with predetermined
- Allow sufficient time for participants to learn the
action-planning process and its purpose.
- Frame the action plan as a tool to support on-the-job
application of learned skills or knowledge.
- Allow sufficient time for participants to identify, develop,
and document action-planning objectives.
- Include sufficient time for a facilitator and peer review
process during participants' development of action plans.
- Ask participants to identify other influences affecting
- Follow up at a predetermined date and time to collect action
- Utilize action plan data for continuous process improvement.
Most training projects are undertaken to deliver business value.
Trends show that there is greater pressure on employees to produce
performance results and on training professionals to show how their
products and services provide performance support, add business
value, and achieve payback for their efforts. Using the
action-planning process to link results to targeted business
measures and collect results data at multiple levels of impact
provides an effective way of demonstrating a training project's
value and adding credibility to the training function. The
action-planning process places special emphasis upon involving
stakeholders in both defining the financial and nonfinancial
indicators of project success and addressing potential enablers and
barriers to the transfer of learning back to the workplace. With
this type of collaborative focus, action-planning positions
training solutions to add value with a broad-based, strategic
line-of-sight, which extends beyond a simple financial or ROI