Measuring stuff in L&D is good and I am an advocate of using data to inform your decision making as well as demonstrating your worth. So is it a case of just measuring everything and it’s bound to be useful? For anyone who knows us and our approach, you know the answer to that already!
Here is what measurement I know happens already, in many places:
- Number of people completed training, either face to face or online
- Test scores from online quizzes
- Amount of time taken for elearning and “engagement” during learning
- Number of “no-shows” on courses
- Number of training hours per year company wide
My question is “Does any of this help to improve performance?” The answer may be that sometimes training is not a performance issue but a compliance issue. The training has to be done, so we need to know how many hours we complete per year and do it in the most efficient way. Fair enough! If you have to do the training, make sure it’s effective and done in the most efficient way to not waste money.
What about measuring all these things when it’s related to performance? I can see value in this only if a good analysis has been done beforehand to:
- Rule out issues that cannot be solved by training (poor systems, processes or lack of resources etc)
- Identify the right stakeholders to work with, who will support you and put measures in place to measure the effectiveness
- Determine the organisational outcomes that need to be met, with the appropriate stakeholders providing resources and support
- Define learning outcomes that are geared towards improving performance and are both observable and measurable
- Put in place follow up by line managers before the learning starts and performers know what they are going to get out of the learning before they attend
This sort of “joined-up” L&D, makes learning everyone’s responsibility and it also means that measurement is not just L&D’s responsibility. It means that “learners” are transformed into “performers”. It means that those measures listed at the top of the page could be used to inform which methods have had the most engagement (not that that is always an indicator for success!)It would be wrong, I believe to suggest that good engagement with one successful cohort will guarantee the same success in another cohort.
To my thinking, any suggestion that there could be some sort of permanent link between engagement and performance misses the point entirely. In a closed system like a chemical plant, where putting in the same chemicals at the same rate with the same process can produce expected, achievable results. Learning is not however a closed system: the variables are always changing as are the participants and the influences on their behaviour. The true measure, in my opinion has to be what measurable differences the learning has made to the performance of an individual. How have customer complaints reduced? Income increased? Sales boosted? A one time analysis is not the answer because things change. So analyse, plan, implement and measure, then round again to make sure you are capturing the “now” and not the “yesterday”.
So am I in L&D Narnia, expecting the impossible? Measuring the unmeasurable? Quite simply, I believe that before investing in learning and merely measuring “engagement” dig, dig and dig deeper to find out what is missing and what you will need to learn and do to make changes. Keep asking why? Until you have some sensible answer other than “why not?”