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6 Ways To Prove the Value of Your Learning

13 Mar 2018 by: Steve Rayson, Founder, Totara and Sally-Ann Moore, Director and Founder of iLearning Forum

Sally-Ann Moore knows a thing or two about corporate learning. She was formerly Head of Training for Digital Europe and the VP at Global Knowledge Network, managing  and delivering projects for over 2million e-learners.  It was at Digital that she became an early adopter of elearning.  More recently she is the founder of the number 1 elearning show in France and other elearning events across the world. Her focus is on helping the elearning market grow by bringing buyers and sellers together and helping companies find the right eLearning strategy.

Sally-Ann’s passion is delivering business value through learning. Over a coffee she outlined to me six ways that learning departments can deliver and prove the value of learning.

1. Focus on Business Outcomes Not Training

An organisation is a value adding system, you bring together people, processes and products that are more than the sum of their parts. That’s how you make profit. Thus if want to improve business performance then you must understand the value adding process in your organisation.

You need to talk to the key people in the business to understand the outcomes they are aiming to achieve. Too often those responsible for training start from the perspective of training needs rather than the business outcomes required. This is a mistake as the business doesn’t really care if you deliver training, they care that you improve business performance, that you make an impact.

In summary, when you meet with business mangers you should not ask about their training needs but ask them how they can improve their business performance and visualise the value-adding system. You need to get their commitment. One way that works in my experience is a half day workshop focus on the business outcomes required.

2. Understand the New 70:20:10 – effort in learning

If we are aiming for 100% competence on the job, where is the effort in Learning?

10% - gets me to “I know”

20% - gets me to “I can do”

But a massive  effort is required to become competent on the job:

70% gets me to “I adapt and apply” 

The danger is that training department budgets are often the exact inverse: 70% spent on formal training, 20% activity based learning and only 10% on the critical “adapt and apply” – which involves mentoring, coaching and importantly on the job performance evaluation.

3. Focus on Activities Not Competences

I am not opposed to competency frameworks but what adds value is not competence but work activity that adds value.  

Knowledge gets out of date very quickly, organisations need people that can adapt and apply their skills and experience on activities that make a difference. Thus the focus has to be on the activities that make a difference, these rely on skills and knowledge but they require application. Thus learning departments have a clear role in performance support and ensuring behaviour change in the job.

4. Monitor Business Metrics

Improving skills and knowledge are inputs to improved business performance and not outcomes. This often fundamentally misunderstood. Many training departments measure metrics such as attendance, completion rates, and quiz scores. However, none of these are business outcomes.

Proving your value means a business focus to metrics. You need a systemic analysis of the business requirement and to focus on the outcomes required. For example at Sophia Antipolis, in a systems integration service outfit there were over 1000 project managers but projects would still overrun on time, cost and specification.  Our aim was to achieve three zeros i.e. no overruns on time, budget and specification. We built training focused on the key skills to get zero returns and implemented a blended programme to support behaviour change. The success of the program was not measured on training delivery but achieving zero overruns. Fundamentally what you measure is what you get.

5. Develop a Balanced Scorecard

Everything in life is about balance. It is not enough to review attendance or quiz scores. Learning departments should develop a balanced scorecard approach. How have business outcomes changed, how have  we changed business value adding processes, what has happened to customer satisfaction.

Remember that what you measure is what you get. The infamous tale of the Sydney urban train company illustrates this neatly: When a customer survey revealed that punctuality needed improving, HR offered cash team bonuses for all improvements between actual and schedules arrival times of trains. Sadly they ended up really annoying the customers because while the trains then ran on time, they didn’t stop long enough in the stations to let people on and off. 

What you measure is what you get. You need a balanced scorecard approach that takes into account shareholder value or balance sheet, customer perception, key value adding processes and rate of innovation & learning.

6. Select Squirrels– Train the right people in the first place

If you want to climb a tree you are better hiring a squirrel than training a turkey. Fundamentally it is not all about training. Talent management is about selecting the right people for the role and for the role-based training. ELearning tempts us to open courses to everyone, even people not qualified or adept for certain roles. This is a major cause of low completion rates and subsequent poor perceptions of eLearning.  Way back, when Microsoft saw an IT skills shortage it developed a range of free courses at the Microsoft Online Institute to obtain MSCE and MSD certification (and a salary hike!) A lot of people signed up but there was only a 15% completion rate, because 85% of these candidates didn’t have the slightest aptitude for solving IT problems.  There was no pre-selection of candidates. Learning departments need to feedback and input into the overall talent management process.


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