Most organizations have an interesting relationship with training measurement. In almost all cases, they’re thrilled with the idea of quantifying the business impact of their training and showing its value to their stakeholders. In fact, it’s a dream of theirs to shove great results in the faces of their most skeptical business leaders. However, when it comes down to rolling up their sleeves and doing it, there’s an opposite and opposing force at work that makes them reprioritize and put it off until tomorrow.
Real and valid business imperatives can drive this opposing force, but when it’s driven by myths and misconceptions, we need to be clearer and separate fact from fiction. Sadly, the bulk of this force working against measurement and preventing learning and development (L&D) organizations from defining their value is propelled and perpetuated by several assumptions that have no basis in reality. I’ve boiled down these false assumptions to the three biggest myths in measurement:
1. Business Leaders Don’t Need to See Training Results
Almost all business leaders not only want to see training results from their L&D team but actually need to see them to help justify their large training budget allocations to their own stakeholders. The reason they came to expect such small results over the years is that they never saw any before.
Business leaders are always refreshed and grateful for any effort to show tangible business results and return on investment (ROI). In fact, a large-scale study conducted in 2016 showed that 95% of business leaders in over 125 organizations were looking for proof of positive training results from L&D, while only 5% actually received it.
2. If There’s a Negative ROI on Any Training, We’re Going to Look Bad
You’ll always be commended more for measuring and putting your money where your mouth is than for delivering training that you can’t measure or refuse to measure. Further, even if you do come across a few programs that don’t conspicuously yield enough benefit to outweigh the costs, you’ll learn from those programs and find out through your measurement process exactly how to improve training in the future.
For instance, one organization recently discovered that a recent training program had a solid benefit — revenue generation — for the business, but it wasn’t enough to offset the cost. In response, the organization’s L&D team delivered a slightly shorter and cheaper version, and the ROI became positive. Through the measurement process, they discovered which components were most effective and which they could revise or replace.
3. I Have to Implement an Enterprise-wide Measurement Approach That Will Work for Everyone
The best approach L&D organizations can take when starting on their measurement journeys is to start small. First, pick one or two programs that are visible and important to your stakeholders, and measure them rigorously and comprehensively. Doing so will show your stakeholders that you know how to do it right. Then, they’ll be interested in doing more of it.
Who cares about a huge, organization-wide measurement approach if they don’t buy into your methods? In fact, when stakeholders find out that you’re doing it right for one program within one business function, the rest of your stakeholders will come clamoring to ask you to do the same for their department. Don’t push measurement onto all your stakeholders all at once; start in one pocket of the organization — and do it right — and the rest will come running to you.
Understanding that these three notions are unfounded will help you fight, or at least mitigate, the opposing forces that make you put off measurement. By recognizing the urgency for results, starting with a few key programs and squashing your fear of negative results, you will be able to jump right in and start measuring. Then, you’ll finally be able to report all your amazing results to your business leaders and convince them that training works.