|Proving the business value of learning is an ongoing mission for every learning and performance professional. A recent whitepaper by KnowledgeAdvisors suggests that the sooner one can measure learning impact, the better. And effective measurement doesn’t necessarily require sophisticated metrics. “Emerging Challenges in Learning: Proving the Business Value” offers nine strategies that can enable the learning function to better sell its value and gain executive support. Strategies include linking learning to shareholder value, continuously optimizing performance, and tracking and reporting actionable metrics .“There’s something to be said for even a small investment in measurement and the significant impact a learning organization can have,” says Jeffrey Berk, chief operating officer for KnowledgeAdvisors. “When you can provide quantitative data, you send a message to the business, stakeholders, and senior level that the learning function has governance, exhibits stewardship, and is making data-driven decisions.”Another suggested strategy, showing the business impact, is—according to Berk—the most important of the nine. “At the end of the day, if any line of business doesn’t have a sense of how it’s helping the business to meet its goals, there’s no value to it.” Learning organizations that manage their measurement proactively are a step ahead of the rest in terms of proving their business value. Many learning professionals put measurement on hold until they get around to creating a savvy system of technical metrics. “You can wait a year to get perfect data, or you can take roughly reasonable data on training’s impact along the way and show it to senior leaders immediately,” Berk explains. He emphasizes the importance of metrics that speak to the business’s bottom line, such as productivity data, rather than numbers that capture training completion or satisfaction.When measuring and reporting informal learning, the report recommends quickly measuring learning’s impact at the point of access, via a poll on the virtual knowledge sharing site, and thereafter formally measuring a sample of the population periodically.
While it is critical that learning organizations begin measuring today, it is also important to build processes and a culture that supports measurement over time. The report notes that high-performing organizations exhibit measurement maturity and sustainability driven by several key learning and development contributions including leadership; defined roles; appropriate skills; defined processes; standards and tools; technology and automation; data utilization that is actionable; and a culture that supports learning and views measurement as critical to success.
Additionally, KnowledgeAdvisors suggests leveraging talent management resources by aligning the silos—recruiting, learning and development, talent, leadership, engagement, and performance management. “There should be metrics for each of these areas, and they should be shared between each of the groups,” Berk says. “The ability to collect talent data and centralize and share it will be the key to creating high-performing workforces that drive business outcomes.
Ann Pace is writer/editor for ASTD; firstname.lastname@example.org.