Article: Design learning programs to drive business results

Learning & Development

Design learning programs to drive business results

It's all about addressing the learner's needs.
Design learning programs to drive business results

The skills, knowledge motivation of the employees are the keys to exceptional results in any organization. Hence the need to put learning at the heart of business strategy and design programs which optimize the training investment and maximizes learning “stickiness.”

When it comes to delivering results from talent development and learning programs, the main focus needs to be on the value business derives from these programs. However, not many organizations measure the outcomes at this level.

The assessment team may face disappointment when they measure the results. They realize that the process breaks down at several stages. In a nutshell, it wasn’t designed to drive business outcomes. If this is a lingering problem, it can be corrected with design thinking - an outcome driven approach to problem-solving. 

Using a systematic process, it empowers the L&D team to delve into a complex problem to determine its root cause, with cost containment as a focus. Design thinking helps L&D professional view a problem from a different perspective – a shift from the assumption of the L&D team in regards to the learner needs, learning management systems, authoring tools, performance data reports, how facilitator will convey the information – but to focus on the needs of the learner. 

By putting yourself in place of the learners, exploring the cultural backgrounds, observing them at the workplace, you get to determine what challenges learners are facing, what is standing in the way of their learning process and how to formulate an effective learning program.

The approach is pretty straightforward. It represents a change in how learning professionals trigger, develop, implement, and establish talent development. The emphasis is on value creation, instead of value capture, because the learning is built for driving business value. At every stage in the learning program design process - as each stakeholder concludes his or her part- a program is designed with the end outcome in mind, and the cornerstone is business results. 

This transforms the traditional learning and development cycle into a design thinking model for the business outcome, with eight steps.

Begin with the end outcome in mind, start with why - Align learning programs across all levels with the business. The why becomes the rationale, and the proposed program is aligned to a specific measure.

Make it practical and go beyond learning events -  The 70:20:10 philosophy - where 70% of the learning happens on-the-job, 20% from peers, and 10% in formal learning experiences, help drive a culture of continuous learning. Select the appropriate solution blending learning design and technology. Clarify parameters of the Learning Journey such as timings for the initiative, audience size, and delivery modalities. It will drive the business outcomes.

Make it matter by addressing the gaps -  Design for input, response, and learning. This ensures the right stakeholders are involved at the right time, and that the content is actionable, effective, relevant, and meaningful.

Make it stick to change behaviors -  Design for practical application and impact. This ensures a learner actually uses the knowledge and that it meets business objectives. Outcomes are measured at both implementation and impact levels. Hiccups must be removed or minimized, and enablers should be strengthened to drive results.

Make it reliable to prove the business case -  Conduct individual or group assessments and measure results to calculate ROI and ROE. The first action is to segregate program effects in the impact data. If ROI and ROE are planned, the next action is to convert data to money. Then the financial benefits are compared to program costs in an ROI and ROE calculation. The data sets get appreciated by the sponsors as business impact connects directly to the program and the financial ROI, in lines with the way a CFO would compute a capital investment.

Tell the story -  Share results with the principal stakeholders - application, response, learning, impact and perhaps even ROI and ROE data form the basis for a powerful story. Storytelling is vital, as it engages them and helps them to retain the results especially when you have business impact.

Demonstrate success with flawless execution - Design for results and demonstrate its ongoing success. It is now defined as, “Participants are using the learning, which behaviors it may have changed, driving critical business impact measures in their work units.” Goals are set to push accountability to the desired business impact level.

With the implementation, response, learning, and impact objectives, developers, designers, facilitators, participants and managers of participants know what to expect and what they must not do or do to deliver results.

Optimize results to build a learning culture - Use black box thinking to increase L&D budgets. This involves refining the program so that the ROI and ROE increase in the future. Increased ROI and ROE makes a great business case. When sponsors, see the program has a positive return on investment, it will be retained, repeated and supported.

When designed right, three critical viewpoints converge in the Learning Journey, enabling individual and organizational transformation. These standpoints are business - understanding and solving business challenges and addressing cultural priorities; learner - evolving one’s beliefs, competencies, experience, and knowledge; and L&D team – delivering an experience that is effective and relevant for learners, while staying on budget.

So, there you have it, you may want to integrate this approach to deal with performance goals. It redefines learning success. It is not a sweeping change, but it involves tweaking what you been doing. It shifts the accountability to drive business results to all stakeholders. It’s not just digesting skills and knowledge in a chewable format, or even using them in your workplace. Learning is now well-defined as driving impact in the organization. 

Topics: Learning & Development

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