Moving from Program Effectiveness to Organizational Implications
We’ve all heard phrases like “measuring what matters” or “what gets measured gets done.” What if you’re not sure what matters? What if you do and do and can’t tell if it really creates lasting change or adds lasting value?
Creating business value requires focusing on understanding the key business drivers your organization is trying to achieve. Many learning and development organizations focus on easy-to-see metrics like the number of people trained. Or, they try to make formal paybacks and struggle to come to terms with how much the training has affected the situation. I’ve discovered a relatively easy-to-use formula that lets you see what matters and how to measure it in a way that resonates with stakeholders as well.
Whenever you speak with someone who needs training, make sure you don’t leave the conversation until they have answered what they want to see two or three months after the training session. which looks different from the current situation. Too often we ask using non-commercial terms. We can say “How would you like to measure success” and accept an answer like “if we have 90% of the audience participating” or “if they pass a quiz that shows they understood the content!”
None of these things show training success. You want to ask the question by asking them to paint you a picture of what they imagine the future looks like that is different from today – what behaviors they see, what language is used, what business outcome occurs. Once you have this information and only When you have this information, design a learning solution that matches it.
Use the methodology that works in your culture and, of course, build it using formal, informal, and peer-to-peer components to suit the diverse experiences of your learners. Use the description to identify the absolute necessities – if they say they want higher turnover, ask them what is preventing turnover? Guide them through the process: are we picking the wrong customers, are we picking the wrong decision maker in a customer, are we presenting the wrong solution, are we giving up on the sale? Then design a learning opportunity that will allow people to bridge the gap and achieve the desired outcome.
Then try the learning solution. Before it gets too solid or too fixed, start using it. If possible, do this when the content is about 60-70% complete so you have early indicators of effectiveness and can change the content or approach. Be prepared to field a minimum viable product and ensure that your stakeholders agree to use a minimum viable product to collect effectiveness data.
And don’t stop there! As you collect data, prove or disprove hypotheses, be sure to communicate, communicate, communicate. Refine your script. Tell it over and over again until you hear other people telling the story as well. This is how you market your ability to solve business problems to close performance gaps.
Again, don’t stop. Continue to use this knowledge to measure the impact of continuous learning on your organization. People who learn grow, innovate and sustainably contribute to your organization. Continuous learning prevents burnout, recharges batteries and increases engagement. It also creates a knowledge base within your organization which leads to better performance. When you multiply the tangible benefits of greater goal achievement with the intangible benefits of psychological safety, your business begins to create lasting performance improvements for every employee.
In a recent study by Fuse Universal, engaging with twice-weekly learning increased customer satisfaction scores by 10% and first call resolution by 6% — tangible performance improvements without requiring training on specific topics. This is proof of the impact of continuous learning on the bottom line. In an internal Hilti study, line managers who completed training programs had team members who both proactively extracted knowledge from our digital learning platform and exceeded targets against their peers whose hierarchical superiors have not received any training.
In your organization, how do you measure tangible and intangible benefits? Where can you collect data? Can you collect data on the achievement of individual or team goals? Can you collect data on activity on your digital learning platform, participation in internal or external courses, or even self-reported learning activities? Can you sort the data by mandate, role or level in the organization? Access these sources and extract data. I recommend starting with a few assumptions such as:
- Team leaders who attend trainings get higher engagement scores.
- Team Leader team members who attend training achieve a higher percentage of their personal goals.
- Team members who take role-specific training are promoted at a higher rate than team members who take generic training.
- Team members who report external training stay with the company twice as long as team members who do not take any training, internal or external.
The specific assumptions should reflect your organization’s goals related to attrition, promotion, engagement, goal achievement, or other metrics reflected in your business strategy. Try to put only two variables together – prove or disprove this hypothesis, then you can add another variable.
Once you start seeing trends, start reporting them. Don’t wait to define a complete dashboard. Don’t try to get 100% accurate data. Start talking about what you see and encourage others to use this information in their own work. For example, you might view data about team leaders and their teams’ engagement scores and notice that team leaders with less than five years of tenure have higher engagement scores. Report on it and ask others to speculate about it.
This doesn’t mean you should fire all managers with more than five years tenure, it means your organization needs to understand what you’re doing after five years tenure affects people in ways that reduce engagement . Maybe that’s when they’ve gone through all the relevant training and they’re disillusioned or feel like they’re not growing. Your goal now would be to get to the root cause and create a performance solution (this may or may not be a learning solution depending on what is causing the lack of performance). Communicate trends to stakeholders, members of the leadership team, your own team, and start changing approaches. L&D is really like applying design thinking to people – always being ready to build a prototype, test it, and refine it or discard it based on the test results.
To sum up, start by ensuring that you are able to add business value. Do this by designing specific solutions to the known business problem to achieve relevance by adding value. Reinforce your credibility thanks to these successes and develop your network and your business acumen. Use expanding business knowledge to begin gathering insights into leading and lagging indicators of business success. Build hypotheses and start figuring out where to find data related to your hypotheses.
More than looking at data points, look for patterns in data and communicate those patterns to develop them. It is essential to talk about your findings and communicate what you see. By continuing to drive business value, you can help others move away from looking at data that doesn’t really matter in favor of data that directly affects organizational goals.