The path you take on a journey determines whether or not you’ll reach the destination. There are “multiple roads to Rome” but some of these roads are more laden with obstacles and challenges than the others.
The traditional approach, and one where the greatest learning plans tend to fail, is planning in the absence of knowing the intended purpose of learning as part of a larger strategy for achieving business goals. And not only that, learning tends to fail when there’s no evidence for learning’s impact.
If your CEO asks, “Do you have evidence for learning and development’s impact on business goals?”, what would your answer be? What chain of evidence do you have that shows learning leads to results? How do you prove the efforts, investments, and resources for learning and development favorably influences business outcomes?
Having a “Different” Conversation
Business impact data is the number one measure desired by CEOs yet only 8% currently see the business impact of L&D (LinkedIn 2017 Workplace Survey). There’s a gradual rise in learning and development being held accountable to the same standards as other parts of the business that use data to show results. The combination of learning and business data that show results tells the story of learning and development’s impact on business goals.
It starts with a very different conversation than that which learning and development has traditionally had with the business. The traditional conversation starts with a request for training. A conversation based on business needs starts with discussion about business goals such as:
- Reduce the time it takes to admit new patients by 2 minutes.
- Decrease cycle time for manufacturing automobile windshields from 7 hours to 5.
- Increase sales for lawn care products by 20%.
- Improve customer return rate from 2 out of 5 to 3 out of 5.
These are examples of business goals and the metrics that determine success.
The beginning of every new year usually starts with the CEO telling the business stakeholders what the business goals are for the year. A simple step for the learning function to begin aligning with the overall business goals is to connect with a stakeholder to get those yearly goals. Ideally this would be done at the beginning of the year, but even halfway through the year isn’t too late to start aligning in preparation for next year.
The follow-up to the conversation about these business goals is a discussion about data that shows learning and development’s impact on business outcomes. Some internal questions you may ask yourself and write down are: “What data do I need to collect and where can I find it? Are there any variables I need to instrument into my learning program to prove I am impacting this business goal?” Notice how we haven’t talked about “training” yet? The shift in focus at the front end of discussions keeps learning and development aligned with business goals.
A Real-World Example of Business-Aligned Training
Perhaps a good way to illustrate the reality of the concepts we are discussing here is an example of a client implementation. A client from the Airline industry came to Riptide with the ultimate goal of implementing an eLearning course with social collaboration capabilities that would ultimately align with a business goal of an increase in spend per head (amount spent per customer) of 0.17 Euros. Other key performance indicator (KPI) goals that supported the ultimate business goal included: increasing the average value of each transaction and increasing products sold per transaction.
The course taught Airline crew members a variety of sales and soft skills in customer interactions along with a social competition component that would allow crew members to see how they were performing compared to other members. The course also allowed them to see their goal vs. actual sales numbers. The quantitative result of the implementation was more than doubling the business SPH goal. The story behind this was that due to strategic goal alignment and a learning implementation focused around key areas for improvement, learners were engaged and were able to prove that the training was effective through the business goals being exceeded.
The road to results is paved with a chain of evidence that shows learning and development’s impact on business goals. We don’t have to wish, hope or feel like learning and development drives results or impacts the business. We have the data to prove it.
Ready for the next step to become data-driven?
Check out the next blog in this series: The Secret To Measure Employee Behavior and Performance From Learning Data .
About the Authors:
Kevin M. Yates
Kevin M. Yates is creator of The COURAGE Model© and advisor for measurement, evaluation and analytics for learning and development. Connect with Kevin on his website, Twitter,Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Elements makes eLearning easier through enabling, behavior-focused learning technology that provides insightful analytics (Storepoints Learning Record Store), and walk-through software training (Waypoints).