Is your business doing very well, pretty well … or not too well?

Although this is a common question, it cannot provide the specific, measurable answers you need to identify and understand the specific processes that need to be improved to make your business perform better.

One way to pinpoint and improve those processes is to develop a set of key performance indicators that you can measure over time and use as yardsticks for positive change.

Here are some performance indicators that you might decide to monitor:

  • The number of sales per employee
  • Average sale size
  • The number of customers who return and buy again
  • The number and cost of product defects and employee errors
  • Customer satisfaction rates or net promoter score
  • Sales made during the holiday selling period in each of the last five years
  • Days from order to delivery
  • The closing rates of sales
  • The cost of goods sold versus profits
  • The number of new sales leads the business is generating
  • Data about online sales, including the number of sales and the average ticket size
  • Data about the most and least profitable hours

There is so much power in the simple process of identifying and monitoring performance indicators. You become involved in what your employees focus on and what they need to achieve. And when they do achieve the levels of improvement that you have set as goals, your people will also can congratulate themselves on success.

Ultimately, the bottom line that you care about − your net profits − will improve. (Remember, profit is not a key performance indicator; it is a result. Key performance indicators are measures of the activities that will improve your profitability if you handle them well).

Measuring Both Hard and Soft Metrics

Because the first aim of training is to improve the way people do things, all training programs should be evaluated by measuring “hard” metrics, which are almost always measurements that can be translated into numbers and evaluated. They could include data answering these questions:

  • Are our salespeople making more sales calls, closing more sales or increasing the size of the average order?
  • Have our product assemblers increased their output and reduced the number of quality defects?
  • Are our phone reps resolving more customer issues on the first call?
  • How many more positive reviews are we getting online?
  • Six months after training ends, are more customers placing repeat orders?

Without hard metrics like these, how will you know whether your training has achieved its goals or repaid your investment?

It is important to measure soft metrics, too. Often misunderstood, they have to do less with observable performance and more with attitudes. They, too, can be measured before and after training as a way to evaluate results. Here are some examples:

  • Do members of your front desk staff feel calmer and more confident about resolving customer complaints?
  • Do your new hires now feel more enthusiastic about working for your company?
  • Do employees now expect to remain at your company for longer periods of time?
  • Has training improved employees’ attitudes?

The Art of Measuring Soft Metrics

There is an assumption that it is difficult to collect data on soft metrics, but, in fact, you can measure soft metrics with trainee surveys or interviews with members of your training or HR team.

Another way to gauge soft metrics is to measure behaviors. After training your call center staffers, for example, do they arrive more punctually and call in sick less often? Those metrics could indicate improved motivation and morale. Six months or a year after training your retail salespeople, has their retention rate improved? That could indicate that your training made their jobs less stressful and more satisfying.

Another reason to measure soft metrics is that they help you identify any extra benefits your training achieved. If the primary purpose of your training was to teach your employees to deliver better customer service, for example, they may also have become bigger believers in your brand.