At the Adobe Round Table conference at the Workforce Analytics Conclave, representatives from leading organizations across various sectors, came together to discuss this challenge of measuring the learning and development of their employees. The concern of ‘measurement’ was ubiquitous, but surprisingly, the challenge wasn’t restricted to measuring the outcomes of learning.
A fundamentally flawed assumption, which the L&D programmes unknowingly operate under, is that L&D strategies are independent and exist in isolation. However, this assumption was denied by everyone during the discussion and it was agreed upon that this must be integrated with the workforce strategy and should be a function of the business strategy of the organization. In practice, learning interventions today are compartmentalized, wherein the employees are trained in a set format, for different tangents like sales, operation, service, product etc. – in the hope that something will deliver the result.
Deepak Sharad Sawant, Senior Product Manager at Adobe says, “The analytics and data of Learning Management Systems can be used to validate or disprove the training hypothesis that was stated at the beginning of the intervention. The systems need to play the part of bringing disparate systems together, to help L&D teams realise whether the focus of their learning and skill development interventions is balanced correctly. This feedback needs to be quick, dynamic and easy to comprehend, and even if it happens to be subjective in nature, it would serve its purpose of establishing what is working and what is not.” Additionally, the lack of clear metrics to directly co-relate the efficacy of the learning intervention with business goals must not be a deterrent to process.
As explained by Sunil Somarajan, CHRO at Reliance Capital Limited, “The end report of the program which comes out has minimal statistics, but more qualitative and unstructured data. In such a case, if the requirements allow, the verbatim of the customer, the customer or employee feedback and other records can be analyzed textually with the analytical tools readily available, which further indicates the measure of success. This can also help assess whether the functional role of learning is impacting the business goal in the bigger picture.”
However, the complexity of the challenges that are posed to the L&D team, at every step of their work, right from identification of the skill to be trained, to eventually presenting a case for sustained training are only realized when one attempts to categorically address the red flags that appear during the entire process. In such a setting, one is tempted to use this as an excuse to completely outsource L&D programs, or divert attention from it, both of which are not the correct approaches. In order to begin the process, firstly a few questions regarding business goals, organizational priorities and learning objectives need to be answered. The idea of training employees isn’t as difficult as is the challenge of simplifying the process of doing so seems to be.
Measuring Learning and Training: A Checklist
Going back to the drawing board to have more clarity on the following is essential before setting the processes in motion.
Identification & Definitions
Defining the Learning Objectives and terms like KRAs (Key Result Areas) and KPIs(Key Performance Indicators), along with identifying the end-result of the training and its impact – direct or indirect on that of business is critical. The understanding that training of a targeted population will lead to a direct increase in the productivity or output, or will indirectly lead to larger social RoI needs to be broken to its simplest version down before initiation.
Assessing the organization and its employees in terms of strengths and weaknesses, and thereby establishing what needs to be reinforced and what needs to be reduced will compress the distance towards the end goal. Furthermore, breaking down this across roles and levels, acting upon innate strengths and repairing the external and internal vulnerabilities is also essential.
Checks & Balances
Not verifying the revelations of the above two points from different stakeholders at different levels is detrimental to the success of the entire L&D intervention. This can be done by listening to all the stakeholders of the process – employees and customers alike. Gather insights of employees who are exiting or the expectations of the employees who have just joined, and foster a system to ensure that the learning discourse doesn’t become a one-sided story. If you are able to hear the unspeakable, you will be on the correct path.
Synthesize an exhaustive data collection mechanism, and then formulate ways to make it easier to record, aggregate and impute.
To conclude, there are several variables in the process of learning and development, and most of them are extremely tough to measure. Tougher still is to create an algorithm to co-relate these measurements and prove the cause and effect of training on fulfilment of business goals. However, if a pivot has to be identified in the process, it has to be the step where the skill and population is identified. The entire process of learning is human-centric, which means that the learning population is not likely to act as a homogenous group of learners. Thus, the only feasible to way to implement learning and ascertain its outcome is to do it in levels and stages, and not have a blanket-approach or blanket-solution to all learning problems. At the end of the day, a problem-based approach, which conforms to the culture, ethos and goals of the organization, is the best way to solve the gap between the need of training and actually delivering it.