Research continues to show how critical it is for L&D to align learning to business outcomes – and to demonstrate that alignment to business partners. Brandon Hall reports that 92 percent of learning professionals say their learning strategy isn’t very effective at meeting business goals. According to Bersin by Deloitte, 95 percent of learning professionals don’t excel at using data to align to the business, improve L&D efficiency, or develop effective training.

Based on more than 20 years’ experience and hundreds of projects, these tips can help you make measurement a critical part of this alignment.

Make it a Partnership.

Stakeholders rely at least in part on L&D’s results to achieve their goals. Frame your conversations with them from the standpoint of mutual benefit. That shared mindset improves the odds that you will uncover important data points to measure.

Know Why You Are Measuring What You Are Measuring.

Take the time to understand the questions you are trying to answer so you can be crystal-clear about what you will measure and why you are taking the time to collect data. Different purposes lead to different data: Are you measuring the quality of the training manufacturing process? Resource use within the L&D function? Knowledge transfer? Performance outcomes? Impact?

Know Who Cares About Which Metrics, and Why.

Know your audience. Business stakeholders typically care about the business impact, so focus there first, and avoid clogging up the conversation with data and metrics focused more on the L&D function. L&D stakeholders often care more about the L&D operational measures, such as resource use, course use, course attendance, course completion and Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation. Both business and L&D metrics matter, but they matter for different reasons.

Locate the Metrics Used by the Business.

Uncover the metrics the business uses to evaluate employee performance. The metrics for a technical sales role may look something like this:

  • Company performance: 10 percent
  • Growth from new business: 20 percent
  • Growth from existing business: 10 percent
  • Client portfolio – losses: 20 percent
  • Client portfolio – product mix: 20 percent
  • Service – response time: 10 percent
  • Discretionary – local manager: 10 percent

Find out how managers categorize employees within each dimension. Find out how many employees are in each category. Ask about the knowledge, skills and performance that have the most impact on the categories.

Connect Learning to Performance.

Work with stakeholders and subject matter experts to connect learning measures with performance measures to create a demonstrable link. In other words, determine which dial will move based on the training you provide. If moving enterprise software clients from an at-risk category to a positive one is the business goal, the employee performance dimensions that have a direct bearing on that goal may include:

  • Active and effective ongoing monitoring of software performance
  • Early identification of issues
  • Rapid and high-quality troubleshooting
  • Symmetrical and timely response to issues

Work with stakeholders to narrow the focus to the performance and learning outcomes with the greatest impact in each or across multiple dimensions, such as learning about and practicing troubleshooting, root cause identification, and symmetrical response using real-world fact patterns. Strengthen the connection between learning outcomes and performance by measuring them with the same metrics used back on the job.

Start With the Data That’s Already There.

Start with the data the business already collects and uses to evaluate success. It’s immensely valuable to partner with people who know where the data is, how it’s organized and how to access it. When you know and work with the right people, you don’t have to be an expert in all matters or manner of data.

Consider Other Data.

The data marketplace is evolving and maturing quickly, and learning analytics means that new and different methods to measure training effectiveness are evolving. Experience API (xAPI) enables increasing levels of learner behavior tracking, and new tools are connecting remote sources of data. Business intelligence platforms give expert and novice users greater command of formal and ad hoc analytical capabilities and, ultimately (hopefully), valuable insights.

There is a learning curve to successfully using learning analytics. If you don’t use it correctly, you unnecessarily churn voluminous amounts of data and get stuck in analysis paralysis. Explore learning analytics – and use it judiciously – targeting what measures matter, not measuring just because you can.

Above All, Keep It Simple.

Consider measuring a car trip from Point A to Point B. Perhaps the simplest thing to measure is that the passengers and the vehicle arrived without incident – or without impacting others. With all the technical capabilities of a car, it is also possible to measure travel time, gas mileage, route efficiency and cabin comfort. Other measures may be interesting, but are they meaningful and worth the investment?

An overarching theme in these tips is a focus on the business and using business language. By linking learning to business metrics, you can demonstrate alignment and a knowledge of the business and how it works—which builds L&D credibility.

Want to learn more? Our Midwinter Month of Measurement is leading up to our next virtual conference, TICE Virtual Conference: Metrics Matter, a Focus on Strategic Planning, Analytics and Alignment. Learn more and register for the free event here.

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