During my years as an internal learning professional, a considerable amount of my time was spent contemplating, measuring, evaluating and communicating the extent to which training and development initiatives were delivering on their promises. Like you, I debated the merits of Kirkpatrick and Brinkerhoff and explored the best methods and approaches for tracking and promoting learning results.
Naturally, the output of these efforts was used to inform program modifications, with lessons learned strengthening and improving our content, strategies and initiatives. But at the end of the day, the real audience for this analysis was typically executives. It was all about selling management on the value of training: linking development to business priorities, justifying future budgets, the learning and development (L&D) function and even my job. Does this sound familiar?
Positioning the role of learning in your organization’s success with executives is important; offering information about how your efforts are directly supporting results helps leaders make wise choices about prioritizing and deploying their finite resources. However, too frequently the L&D function sub-optimizes the data it gathers, evaluates and prepares. And it does so by focusing exclusively on leaders and failing to make use of it with another highly interested and influential audience: the learners.
The next frontier of learning impact analytics, or at least a possible expanded focus, involves strategically leveraging data with participants for their benefit and for the benefit of the organization as a whole. In short, it’s time to start looping in the learners.
Evolving Needs – Evolving Expectations
L&D has never been more important in the workplace. In a fast-paced business environment, the ability to learn quickly, upgrade skills agilely and perform in new ways daily offers a powerful and sustainable competitive advantage. However, learning isn’t exclusively a priority for organizations; it has become a priority for individuals as well.
In fact, according to multiple studies, L&D currently represents one of the most important employee benefits a business can offer. Prospective employees often make the decision to join your organization based upon the training trajectory available. Additionally, existing employees choose to stay or go based upon the learning opportunities presented to them.
So, lift the curtain and let employees in on what you have to offer; allow people to take advantage of training. Online systems with marginal incremental costs can support a more generous and democratic approach to learning. Publish, in layman’s terms, any data available from participant reactions and recommendations to documented behavior change and key business drivers.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that employees everywhere are becoming increasingly sophisticated consumers. Given the ubiquitous nature of information and learning resources, both within and outside of the workplace, employees have a variety of choices. They’re even willing to spend their own money to further their development. Sharing data with employees about the quality of your offerings can inspire not just credibility and confidence.
The Benefits of Being Transparent
• When employees are offered visibility regarding the value of the learning experiences available to them, your organization can benefit in the following ways:
• Learners are more receptive to engaging in L&D efforts, including online social interactions that many organizations struggle to foster.
• Learners have a greater appetite and willingness to participate in future measurement and evaluation processes because they’ve benefited from its output.
• Learning becomes more valued by everyone, allowing even informal learning to garner greater attention and energy.
And all of this creates a stronger learning culture within the organization and makes the job of the L&D department easier and more satisfying.
So, you’re gathering the data and crunching the numbers already. Why not squeeze even greater value from your training evaluation initiatives? It’s as easy as expanding your distribution list to include an additional audience. Let’s start looping in the learners!