What are you doing to measure your learning outcomes? Of course, this may seem like answering ‘how long is a piece of string?’ but the reality is that there are several fairly basic and easy to implement strategies that not only help you measure the success of L&D programs but, if done properly, can significantly increase ‘buy in’ from managers and execs.
The first rule, in my experience, is to follow the KISS principle (‘Keep It Simple Stupid’…not ‘dance around in platform shoes and leather all-in-ones with your tongue stuck out!’) – i.e. rather than try to establish complicated methods of measurement, simply get the program participants and, importantly, their managers, to establish a handful of mutually agreed key learning outcomes (AKA KPIs) relevant to the program in question. For example; if it’s a Time Management workshop, the participant(s) and their manager might establish that they want (at the very least) the following key learning outcomes (my experience tells me to keep the KPIs to a minimum of three and a maximum of five, although some organisations do use more):
- Improved punctuality
- Better prioritisation of work tasks
- Reduced time for completion of work tasks
- Reduction of missed task/project deadlines
The participant and manager would then agree on a score (something as simple as ‘out of ten’ will work just fine) for where they are for each of the KPIs prior to the workshop (because, to state the blindingly obvious, you can’t measure outcomes unless you have some idea of where the individual/group/organisation was to begin with).
Most importantly, the participant(s) and manager(s) diarise a time to review the (hopefully improved) performance in these KPI areas again at a specific point after the workshop (I would recommend 2-3 months) so that improvements can be gauged (at this point Managers can, of course, take the opportunity to make it clear what score he or she is expecting by way of performance improvement).
Adopting a system of measurement such as this and the data it provides has several important benefits including (but by no means limited to):
- A system of measurement that can be used as a part of gauging ROI (and therefore improving, replacing, or cancelling programs that aren’t achieving the results desired)
- Improved attendance in programs
- Improved engagement in programs (especially with people who have a tendency to see such workshops as a ‘day off’)
- Improved support from Managers for L&D programs (especially as they are able to measure the improvement from their team member(s))
- Improved support/’buy in’ from execs as a result of being able to measure improvement (and the resultant increase in productivity, etc which ultimately leads to increased profits)
- Increase in overall achievement of desired learning outcomes
I find a lot of companies don’t have any such system of measurement in place (often because the belief is that they are complicated and difficult to implement and manage), However, aside from the benefits listed above, one of the great things about this type of system of measurement is that it’s relatively simple to develop, implement, and manage and, most importantly, puts the onus on the participants and their managers to manage it themselves, meaning they ‘own’ it (and are therefore more likely to positively engage in it)…and, of course, meaning you don’t have yet another thing to add to your workload!
Do you currently have a system in place to measure the success of your programs? If so, I’d be really interested in hearing about them and any advice you have for people looking to implement such an initiative.