You’re all set. You’ve got a fantastic team of content developers that design your training. You’ve got another great team of facilitators that deliver your training. You’ve got another team that liaises to align your training to the business and another team of learning technologists that ensures it’s engaging, innovative and scalable. And amidst all these amazing teams, working toward one goal — to provide great training to the business — you, of course, have a mighty measurement team to collect data and show everyone how great it’s working. Right? You wouldn’t spend all this time and money creating all these amazing training experiences, and not have someone reporting on the benefits. Right?
If you don’t, you’re not alone. In fact, if you don’t measure the impact of your training, you’re in the majority. According to Training Industry research in 2020, less than 20% of companies measure the return on investment (ROI) of training in any consistent way — and that’s being generous. Even less do it in a way that can convince stakeholders that it’s really adding tangible value to the business. Whether it’s conflicting priorities, lack of expertise or fear of negative ROIs, companies are just not dedicating that many resources to the most compelling and important part of the learning and development (L&D) journey: telling your stakeholders that employees have reached their destination and that the training is actually “working.” After all, how do you expect anyone to see the value in your training if you never show them any evidence or results? Measurement and impact reporting tells the business leaders and CEOs why they’re here in the first place. Without measurement, L&D is always perceived as a cost and never a benefit. In other words, L&D will always be seen as a money-taker and never a moneymaker. So, it’s time to flip the script. And when you do, it will be the best investment you ever make.
Three Tips to Begin Your Measurement Journey
1. Build a small but mighty team dedicated to measuring impact.
Human resources (HR) and L&D employees bring an impressive and diverse portfolio to their jobs, but unfortunately, measurement methodology is typically not part of it. And even when it is, they don’t have the time and resources to measure. They already have full-time jobs. They can’t spend all day developing, designing or facilitating training and then get handed the additional job of gathering data, analyzing the data and creating executive-ready reporting for their stakeholders. You need one team that is solely accountable for creating ROI case studies and delivering critical reports.
2. Make sure the measurement team can be objective.
If a training vendor came in and told you all about their amazing results with other clients and, in the same breath, tried to sell you that same training, you might question whether those studies and results were completely objective. In the same sense, it can be challenging for L&D departments to be perceived as completely objective if they are creating reports on themselves and grading their own work. That’s why it’s important to take measurement out of the hands of those who are closest to the training and give it to those who can assess it more objectively. Don’t get me wrong: Measurement teams still need designers and developers to provide critical inputs, but not in the analysis and reporting phases. In a perfect world, measurement teams may sit outside L&D entirely — much like some diversity and inclusion (D&I) measurement is now reported right to C-levels. But for now, just make sure your measurement team can report its findings with minimal influence from the people who own it.
3. Bring in strong measurement expertise — at least in the beginning.
Underscoring both points above, for the first few impact and ROI studies, find someone who really understands scientific measurement methods, and at the same time, can bring an outsider perspective to assess the value of your training. They should have a hearty knowledge of the training measurement industry and know what other companies are doing to prove their value. After working with your subject matter expert (SME) on a few case studies, you’ll find some members of your internal L&D group drawn to this measurement work and your own dedicated measurement team will form organically. Once this new dedicated measurement team learns enough and gets confident in their methods and reporting, you will no longer need the expert.
Bottom line: It’s critical to impress your stakeholders with your first few case studies. Make them rigorous, scientific and objective. Once the stakeholders and business leaders are confident in your methods and conclusions, then you can start measuring a wider variety of your training programs. As you start building out your measurement strategy, your team of data-friendly, results-oriented people will present themselves. Brand them as your “impact team” and make it their full-time jobs. Pretty soon, you’ll have your own internal team of experts ready to step up and confidently answer any skeptical stakeholders when they ask the historically dreaded question: “Does this training really work?”