I have an idea. Let’s create a function in learning and development (L&D) that uses facts to show the influence of training and learning on peoples’ behavior, actions and performance. Let’s tell L&D’s story with evidence for impact.

Let’s build a culture in L&D that uses data and analytics to answer questions and inform decisions. How about a function embedded in L&D that validates fulfillment of our purpose and transforms the way L&D demonstrates its value? I got it! Let’s build a measurement practice for L&D.

Change Our Mindset
Our mindset about impact is deeply rooted in the history of what we’ve thought to be our deliverable: the class, the course, the training materials, etc. But what about impact as the deliverable? We must consider the change that comes from learning’s influence on behavior, performance and actions.

My view is that the content we create is not our final deliverable. It’s not where the story of measurable impact ends. For me, the story ends when our training and learning solutions strengthens or builds capability. We, as L&D professionals, fulfill our highest purpose when we measurably impact peoples’ performance. Measurable impact is the deliverable, and that should be our mindset.

Change the Discussion
Let’s change the discussion by changing where the discussion starts. The discussion doesn’t start with, “We need training.” It starts with being curious about the underlying reasons for training requests.

How often do we engage in discovery-based discussion about what the organization is trying to achieve when we get the order for training? Our discussions should help us uncover how the organization will measure success. Moreover, our conversations should inform decisions for training and learning solutions that measurably impact performance.

When we’re clear about organization priorities and align our L&D solutions accordingly, we are using the same metrics and measures to evaluate success. We connect in ways that prevent us from just measuring our programs and initiatives. A new discussion with a different focus and innovative strategy for engagement helps us build a measurement practice for L&D.

Focus on Performance
Our training and learning solutions should be purposefully aligned and designed to produce performance outcomes that help people and the organization. My view is that we don’t design and deliver training and learning solutions simply for the experience. Performance impact is the purpose and the goal.

If performance impact is the deliverable, and we’re going to measure that, we need to know what impact looks like. More specifically, we need to know the skill and capability requirements that aid people in achieving goals, executing strategy and allowing the organization to succeed. Performance impact is the foundation upon which a measurement practice is built.

Let’s focus on influencing and changing peoples’ performance through training. Results are not the number of people trained, the number of training hours completed or the number of people who liked the program. Results are the extent to which behavior and actions change, and we can measure that.

Building a Measurement Practice Doesn’t Start with Measurement
I deliberately stayed away from talking about methods, models and technology for L&D measurement. There’s work to do before we get to that. Building a measurement practice for L&D doesn’t start with measurement.

That may sound contradictory, but here’s what I mean: We need a mindset shift for impact as the deliverable, a change in our discussions for alignment and organization goals, and a focus on performance outcomes. If we get these things right first, we are setting ourselves up for a successful L&D measurement practice. The methods, models and technology will be there to support us. The foundations I’ve described here will sustain us in building a meaningful measurement practice for L&D.