It’s been almost 60 years since Donald Kirkpatrick created his four-level training evaluation model. Despite their best efforts, few organizations have been able to reach the holy grail of learning – level 4 (the effect on the business). To be fair, we have lacked the technology to provide these insights. This lack of progress was recently highlighted in a report by Bersin by Deloitte, which looked specifically at how “high impact learning organizations” were using data to inform training, target learning, address performance and determine risk. This study confirmed that only a small percentage (a mere 6 percent) have reached Level 4. Most (76 percent) are still operating at the lowest levels.

Over the last five to 10 years, there has been a major upheaval in L&D. Three key influencers have collided and are poised to revolutionize the way companies conduct (and measure) corporate learning. This situation presents both a significant challenge and a tremendous opportunity for businesses and L&D departments to work together to use learning to drive measurable business results.

1. Increasing Demands to Deliver Impact Across the Business

The increasing pressure to drive revenue and reduce expenses across every department has business leaders looking more critically at L&D and L&D looking inward to find a way to demonstrate their value to the business. Currently, there is a significant disconnect between what the business wants and what L&D can deliver. Traditional methods offer “check the box”-style training and a static “one-and-done” approach to learning. These methods just don’t work to drive long-term knowledge retention that leads to performance.

To make themselves truly relevant, L&D departments must help business leaders achieve their bottom-line goals. Doing so requires a new approach that engages employees, makes them excited to participate in learning and ingrains knowledge deep enough to change their behavior on the job. But L&D departments can’t stop there. They also need to measure the results of their programs on bottom-line business goals. The good news is that platforms and tools now exist that can get them there.

2. Advancements in Brain Science

In a typical corporate training scenario, a group of employees walks into a boardroom, or sits in front of their computers, to participate in a long, one-time training session or module. They’re fire-hosed with information that the forgetting curve tells us they won’t remember in 30 days. Traditional training like this approach falls short, because it doesn’t take into account how our brains actually absorb and retain information. New tools and solutions that deliver short, personalized learning experiences that are based in brain science and use techniques like spaced repetition, retrieval practice and confidence-based assessment are helping to root knowledge far enough to directly impact behaviors in the workplace.

3. A New Wave of Technology

In the near future, one-and-done training will be replaced with a continuous approach that’s designed, first and foremost, to drive measurable business results. Forward-thinking companies are using new technologies that provide employees with micro-bursts of learning that fit into their workflow and give them access to information anytime, anywhere, on any device. These experiences adapt to fill in personal knowledge gaps and drive the right behaviors on the job.

The data collected with this approach can also provide organizations with a real-time view into what their people know and don’t know so they can adjust learning and use it to correct on-the-job behaviors in the moment. Learning becomes a continuous cycle of optimization that can be used to drive (and predict) business outcomes – and a key contributor to the overall success of the organization.

The next evolution in learning technology will move us beyond level 4 of the Kirkpatrick Model and enable L&D to measure business impact, predict performance gaps and adjust learning accordingly. With access to these data, the L&D function will possess critical information that will help guide business decisions and predict and adjust behavior before actions become reality. The holy grail of learning and business impact is well within our reach.

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