Learning Outcomes: Forecasting the Impact of Learning is the Stakeholder’s Responsibility
by David Vance on April 10, 2011 · in The Business Of Learning
Running learning like a business requires a business plan for learning. This document should include the expected impact of learning on the organizational goal addressed by the learning. For example, a program on consultative selling skills for your marketing professionals should result in 5 percent higher sales. Once you have the anticipated impact of learning, you can compare it with the expected cost of the program to make the business case for the investment.
So, where does the expected impact of learning come from? Many learning leaders think they have to come up with it and then sell it or justify it to others in the organization. For this reason, and because it is subjective and subject to the same issues of isolation as a post program Level 4 determination, many leaders shy away from even creating a business plan for learning that contains expected impacts. I believe this is one of the rare instances in which the answer is easier than it seems. I contend that the stakeholder (owner of the organizational goal, such as the VP for sales) is ultimately responsible for providing this expected impact – not the learning leader.
After all, the stakeholder asked for the program or at least identified the need when you had your planning discussion with him/her. In subsequent discussions, you have both discussed the need in greater detail, the target audience, the timing, the types of learning that might address the need, duration, costs, etc. If you both believe learning has a role to play, now is the time for the stakeholder to earn his/her pay. The stakeholder will be aware of all the other factors that may contribute to achieving the goal. Considering all the other factors and the learning program under discussion, what impact does the stakeholder expect from the learning? If the goal is to increase sales 10 percent, how much can this learning program contribute? Half (which would be 5 percent higher sales)? A quarter? Ten percent of the 10 percent? How much? Push them on this. They really do get paid to make forecasts just like this, and they do own the goal. Generally, they will end up providing a range, in which case I advise taking the lower end.
What do you think? Have you tried this before? The burden should not be on the learning leader to unilaterally forecast the expected impact. Place it where it belong – with the stakeholder! And, if they have no idea after all this discussion, maybe you should not proceed with the program!!
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