As we stand at the precipice of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, those in the business of learning are probably thinking, “What does this unprecedented innovation, digitization and virtual interconnectivity mean to me?” The answer is simple: It’s going to disrupt your life. However, disruption can be good for us, depending on our ability to adapt.
The great news for professionals in the training industry is never – in the history of industrialized work – has it been more critical for people to be properly trained to do their jobs. The demand for highly trained and uniquely skilled leaders will continue to grow exponentially while the demand for untrained, unskilled followers will drop at a similar rate. In order to “make it” in this brave new world, organizations and their people will have to double down and invest in the training that creates strong leaders, one-of-a-kind contributors and indispensable experts. They’ll have to do their jobs more creatively, more efficiently and more prosocially. And, because their livelihood depends on this training, they’ll want to see proof that it works. Before we get into that, here’s a quick refresher on our industrial revolutions and their implications on training:
First Industrial Revolution: Water and steam power pushes us out of manual, agrarian work and into machine-driven manufacturing. We move from apprenticeships to training mass amounts of unskilled laborers to create and operate these machines.
Second Industrial Revolution: Electricity and oil pushes us to assembly lines and mass production. We need to train unskilled people to contribute to this mass production.
Third Industrial Revolution: Electronics and information technology automate production. Computers push us to desks and digital communication to be more productive. We need to train people to work in teams and use technology to their advantage.
Fourth Industrial Revolution: Technology is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological world. Smart technology dictates the way we live, work and interact. Speed and efficiency dominate the marketplace. We need to train people to harness technology in a way that makes the world a better place.
What stands out about the fourth one? What’s this about, “…makes the world a better place”? The biggest differentiator for the fourth revolution is how high the bar is set. Do things more efficiently and make the world a better place? At the same time? How do you do that? And how do you prove it?
When it comes to efficiency, organizations will simply have to prove they’re the best. With a high demand for speed and simplicity and an utter intolerance for inferior processes, innovation and expertise will replace tradition and hierarchy. This pulls power and advantage away from corporate giants and pushes it to niche experts that can better satisfy customer demands. No matter who you are or how big your company – if you could do it faster, simpler and cheaper, then you’ve got the advantage.
When it comes to making the world a better place, organizations’ missions and goals will need to move humanity forward, putting people and community above raw profit. In an age of social media and global connectivity, organizations and their employees will become far more transparent and be held more accountable regarding their social impact. No previous industrial revolution has been so core to our lifestyle, our work or our future. Making people’s lives easier and happier is a far loftier goal than simply driving profit for a factory or corporation.
But what happens when you set such ambitious and altruistic goals? That’s right – you have to measure every initiative and effort against that bar. If you claim you’re the “best” – you’ll have to prove it. And how do you prove it? You measure it. You measure it against all alternatives. Was it faster? Was it simpler? Was it cheaper? Was it for the greater good? All stakeholders and clients will be asking the same thing: How does it measure up? They want to see evidence, data and results.
So, what does the Fourth Industrial Revolution mean to the training industry? If we are developing or delivering training that contributes to these world-enhancing goals, and we say that our training will be improving the most crucial aspects of human performance, we’ll have to prove it! We’ll have to prove our training gives people the right skills and drives the business performance that makes the world a better place. It means not only demonstrating our training works but also that it works better than the alternatives. And that means measuring impact.
Despite a long history of flying under the radar, there will be absolutely no room for training organizations or L&D functions within businesses that cannot measure and prove business results. There will also be no more room for training providers who cannot prove that their solutions did – in fact – grow the people, grow the revenue and grow the company.
MEASUREMENT APPROACH FOR THE FUTURE
Earlier this year, I was asked by a respected colleague, “Does the traditional Kirkpatrick/Phillips model of measurement still work in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?” My answer was “Yes, but with a healthy dash of innovation.”
The reason why the first five levels remain so relevant and timeless is because our desired “story of impact” never really changes. No matter how dramatically the training content or delivery modes change over the next few decades, what’s supposed to happen in participants’ brains and what’s supposed to happen in the business remains the same. The sights, sounds and sensations of the training experience still need to engage our brains (Level 1). The training content still needs to be absorbed and retained in the brain (Level 2). The brain still needs to retrieve that content, and turn it into behavior that makes us perform better on the job (Level 3). That behavior then needs to benefit the business and its goals (Level 4), and that benefit needs to be weighed against the cost of the training to see if it was all worth it (Level 5). Because the outcomes of Levels 1 through 3 are uniquely human and the outcomes of Levels 4 and 5 are crucial to the business, they make an excellent measuring stick for any training initiative.
However, learning leaders must elevate their measurement strategy from simply reporting results to making quantitative predictions of how they can improve training results in the future. If we’re going to live in a world where we’re constantly looking for the next best thing, then we must not only report the impact of today’s training, but also report how we get greater impact from tomorrow’s training. This is where what I call “Level 6” comes in. Level 6 is a quantitative analysis that identifies the critical “climate” factors back on the job that either help or hinder the impact of the training. In essence, it recognizes that all participants go back to different environments or “climates” after the training, and it quantitatively tells you what climate factors will maximize the participants’ behavior change, business impact and ultimate ROI.
For instance, one recent case study showed that immediate manager support and follow up after the training (a strong climate factor) increased the business impact and ROI of participants by an average of 240%. That’s the same training content with the same training delivery, but with vastly different climates after the training. Imagine being able to go back to your business leaders with these results and telling them, “It’s not just what we do in L&D that predicts training impact and effectiveness – it’s what you do when participants are back on the job every day.” This next level of measurement means taking all the data you gather from the traditional Kirkpatrick and Phillip’s Levels 1 through 5, and using it to add another layer to the story – one that tells your organization how to maximize the impact of all training solutions in the future.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is ripe for measurement. In fact, it demands measurement! To keep up with the constant change in the modern business environment, learning leaders must constantly assess whether they can replace old, traditional potions with new, disruptive notions. And there’s no way to make these assessments valid and reliable without measurement; every industry will need to measure and show results. In the training industry, we can continue measuring and reporting our story of impact using the five levels of evaluation, but we need to add a sixth level to prove and improve impact in the future.
The next few decades of human work will not be based on traditional positions and processes but rather on results and impact. Our only question will be: “Is the end result more efficient from a business perspective and more generous from a human perspective?” In fact, we’re in the midst of answering this question as much of the workforce continues to work from their homes. Is working from home more productive and enjoyable? We’ll have to get data and prove it. If it’s more efficient to have employees work from home, and it makes them happier – do you need a traditional office building? Sure, you loved your morning commute, but perhaps you‘ll mourn it and move on. And the rows of cubicles and fluorescent lighting was intimate and elegant, but maybe you’ll get over it.
For the Fourth Industrial Revolution, keep your mind on change, and your eyes on impact. And if the change works – prove it!