Any audit is essentially a report card that conveys to the auditee the degree of variance between the objectives and the achievement. In the learning and development context, the auditor examines the extent to which training objectives were achieved, whether the laid down, processes were followed adequately and correctly, what deficiencies were observed in case of suboptimal results, and the possible remedial measures, etc.
In sum, a training and development audit looks into the effectiveness of the training functions and evaluates its strengths and weaknesses with supporting recommendations. The intent is to verify and improve the present and set the road map for the future.
Before we examine the issue of frequency of audit, let us look at some critical reasons underlying the L&D audit exercise.
First and foremost, the auditor presents an unbiased and objective view of the state of affairs. Auditors are usually not directly connected to the auditee unit; they have an arm's length distance and will offer a “new eyes” perspective, which may not be visible to those directly associated with the L&D functions.
Secondly, we live in dynamic times, and changes in the environment are often unexpected. An audit will help identify problem areas that need corrective measures and actionable plans. Timely action helps cope unpredictably better and prepares the institution to weather any crisis without much damage. An audit serves as a risk-mitigating measure. In the context of training, it will help to understand, for instance, why new hires are exiting the company through detailed scrutiny of the onboarding program and its data. Analyzing audit outcomes of the onboarding and associated training will throw light on mistakes and shortcomings of the program and suggest answers to plug the observed lapses and prevent employee churn. It will improve the training ROI.
Thirdly, an L & D audit will help fine-tune and improve training policy and strategy. An audit takes an impartial view of the outcomes vis. a vis. the expectations. It will measure the divergence between the objectives of training and whether the objectives were achieved. An audit will reveal exceptions on either side of the two parameters. If there are large deviations between the two, it will question the objectives—are expectations unrealistic, over-ambitious, not in tune with circumstances or if the objectives are in line with institution goals, but results are not satisfactory, are the processes and methods faulty, is content appropriate, are the trainees conveyed the purpose clearly, etc. Though feedback also serves as a quasi-audit, it is restrictive in scope. The analysis and audit findings will serve as a wake-up call to set the L&D issues in order.
The following points summarize L&D audits raison d'être:
Given the above imperatives, audits must be done regularly. The frequency of audits will depend on the need. For new programs and those that impact business outcomes, an audit may be done soon after the program conclusion so that similar future programs do not suffer the inadequacies, if any, revealed through an audit. Delay in the audit of such impactful and foundational programs results in long-term difficulties, poor outcomes, and wasteful expenditure, as training purpose is not fulfilled. For generic programs and overviews of the L&D practices and systems, audits may be done annually.
The system, however, does throw up some tell-tale signs that spell out the need for undertaking an audit. Enterprises must familiarize themselves with these so that diagnosis and insights are gathered in time. Some crucial indications are as under:
The emergence of the above signals is indicative of the failure and inadequacy of the L&D functions. Training programs can become infructuous and outlive their usefulness if not monitored regularly. In a rapidly changing environment, training has to keep pace. An audit helps the organization derive value from training. The enterprise can use audit findings and insights to take a critical relook at their training processes and objectives, sift the programs to wean out or modify those that are not working or those that the users are finding not good enough to keep them up skilled to face new challenges or identify courses that give an adverse/high-cost benefit ratio.
Well before an enterprise's training system is subjected to a formal audit, it is advisable to undertake a self-audit. The same parameters as per the actual audit can be examined and a position established. Self-assessment is not a substitute for a real audit but a means of determining current status against the enterprise preset learning and development benchmarks. It creates a better understanding and preparedness, so that audit findings do not throw up surprises or actionable that are difficult to comply with.
To recap, a regular training audit is a must for continuous improvement and to get the best value out of the training effort and investment. An audit will provide insights to the following questions about L&D functions:
To make training audit a potent and effective tool, enterprises must set in place plans to ensure that it is done regularly and in all seriousness. Only when the training audit is taken seriously across the enterprise and its observations attended will it have the maximum positive impact on employee and business performance.
Gyrus can render any support in your enterprise’s audit functions by providing data analytics and real-time actionable insights about learning effectiveness and its impact on employee and business performance. Do get in touch.