According to a training report no less than $55.4 billion in 2013 was spent on training, including payroll and external products and services, in the US alone. The US and other countries spend a significant amount of money on employee development with the implicit assumption that training is correlated to improved on- the- job performance. However, what exactly should we measure to ensure that this money is well spent? What is it that we need to measure to determine that employees are performing as expected and thus benefitting from these training expenditures?
Two responses that we often get to this “what should be measured” question are “performance” and “competencies”. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the United States defines performance measurement as the “ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly progress toward pre-established goals.” Performance measures, therefore, help define what success at the workplace means (“accomplishments”), and attempt to quantify performance by tracking the achievement of goals. Competencies are generally viewed as “a cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes” (Parry 1996), and are thought to be measurable, correlated to performance, and can be improved through training. While closely connected, they are not the same thing. Competencies are acquired skills, while performance is use of those competencies at work. Measurement of both is critical.