Measuring the Impact of Learning in the New World of Work

I recently had a conversation with David Wentworth, Principal Analyst at Brandon Hall Group where we discussed learning trends in 2020, the connection between learning and performance and the importance of measuring its impact. In a new work environment, faced with the challenges of COVID-19, there are significant changes that can impact your learning strategy – like a compressed timeframe and digital-first approaches – but don’t disregard the principles of learning. Overall, your goals may shift and your outcomes may have to be adjusted, but how you create impact through learning still remains the same. Many organizations were shifting towards a digital learning environment and offering more options than in-person training provides, but now there is an increased sense of urgency to make this change immediately.

It is no surprise that COVID-19 has required organizations to re-think the way employees access learning. What’s more, the learning environment is rapidly evolving to meet the increased demand as employees work remotely, adjust to new norms, and shift their approach to learning and development.

Learning is still an important strategy – and significantly more important in industries that need to quickly train employees on new policies and procedures related to COVID-19. Additionally, it’s a powerful way to bring your employees together while supporting engagement, company culture and development.

Brandon Hall Group’s recent Learning Management Survey outlines how organizations are using learning and if they are measuring the success of their programs. When the dust settles and the world adjusts to our collective new normal, “business as usual” will look a little different than before.Learning is a powerful strategy to bring your employees together while supporting engagement, company culture and development.
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Let’s look at the data

Brandon Hall Group asked organizations why they measure learning and the results are in. According to the Brandon Hall Group Learning Management Survey:

  • 78% of organizations measure learning to improve the effectiveness of learning programs
  • 66% of organizations measure learning to more strongly link learning and organizational performance
  • 53% of organizations measure learning to more strongly link learning and individual performance
  • 40% of organizations measure learning to more strongly link learning and employee engagement
  • 38% of organizations measure learning to determine the ROI of learning programs
  • 27% of organizations measure learning to provide input to the performance management process
  • 23% of organizations measure learning to more strongly link learning and reduced turnover

So, what does this mean for learners? While the majority of organizations measure the impact of their learning programs to improve effectiveness, 69% of organizations say that the inability to measure learning’s impact represents a challenge to achieving critical learning outcomes. When it comes down to it, learning isn’t the outcome – learning propels the change in behavior that drives performance. If you’re not measuring the impact, how will you understand the performance outcomes and the benefit for your employees?

Why is there a lag in the measurement mindset?

The Measurement Maturity Model shows that only 27% of companies say that their learning strategy includes a framework to measure success. While companies want to attribute the link to learning and performance, a quarter of respondents noted that a measurement plan doesn’t exist within their organization.

Graph that shows Measurement Maturity Model

The secret to high-performing organizations

David Wentworth noted that high-performing organizations, or HiPOs, have key performance indicators that improve year-over-year; indicators such as profitability, revenue, employee engagement, customer satisfaction and market share. But what makes these organizations successful over other organizations? It circles back to a learning strategy framework – 40% of HiPOs have a learning strategy framework in place.

I asked David what specific metrics talent leaders should be considering when it comes down to their talent strategies. Your metrics should be tied to what your business is after. For example, if you want to increase your sales revenue, consider the adjustments needed to your sales strategy and adjust your metrics to reflect this. How do you know if you are successful? Understand if your employees are changing their behavior towards selling.

Measurement metrics graph

Learning isn’t the outcome, it’s the behavior that drives performance

According to David, learning is the behavior that drives performance. Implementing a learning strategy should be done with the knowledge that it may change over time. Here are some tips to adjust your learning strategy for the current environment:

  1. Understand what your communication tools are and take advantage of them
  2. Know what data is being collected through your LMS, how it is formatted and where it goes – data is the starting point for measurement metrics
  3. Leverage your data now rather than waiting until you have a question. An upfront understanding of how your LMS manages the data can help frame how you answer questions

A key takeaway: keep your principles in place and don’t abandon your current projects and strategy work for the sake of time. Learning should still have specific outcomes, albeit they might change. Focus on short-term learning priorities (like training employees on managing remote work) but keep your outcomes and learning principles at the forefront. These principles will be key when the world resumes, and although organizations will want to return to the way things were done before, maybe that wasn’t necessarily the best or most effective way.

Carole Bower of Saba Studio and Natalie Mills-Richardson, Customer Marketing Manager, EMEA had a follow-up discussion on future skills and the trends in learning and development. Watch now!

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