The first takeaway, according to Laurie Bassi, CEO of HR analytics firm McBassi & Co., starts with the mindset: Don’t approach reporting to prove the function’s worth.
This is why so many ROI studies are not taken seriously — their motivation is wrong. Instead, focus on business outcomes and outline how learning has aligned to improve them, Bassi said. The process learning leaders should take when designing programs to match business outcomes — starting with the end in mind — should be the same when reporting to senior leaders.
The Center for Talent Reporting is a nonprofit organization working to develop a standard for reporting human capital metrics, including learning and development. The organization is the byproduct of a cohort of learning leaders wanting to establish a formalized approach to reporting learning metrics and measurement.
David Vance, the organization’s executive director, said the model for the Talent Development Reporting principles, or TDRp, comes from the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, the standard set of statements used in corporate accounting. TDRp aims to replicate the model with a series of statements for talent reporting for outcome, effectiveness and efficiency.
Outcome measures, Vance said, are tied to an organization’s goals. The effectiveness statement outlines the Kirkpatrick four levels of evaluation plus Phillips’ fifth level. The efficiency statement presents results through seven measures: activity and use of a learning program, career development, cost, head count or participation, training effectiveness, cycle time and effort.
Vance said the goal for all statements is to provide learning executives with more guidance on metrics reporting. Adoption thus far has been small, but Vance said he hopes the model slowly gains acceptance as the focus on learning measurement increases.
Automatic Data Processing Inc. has adopted TDRp. The human capital services firm is about two years into its implementation of the framework, said Carrie Beckstrom, the company’s vice president of learning and performance.
Despite some progress, adoption of TDRp at the company has been small and slow. Beckstrom said it took six months just to implement the most basic reports, and some learning team members still struggle to pick up the concepts.
She said the function produces monthly reports for internal learning evaluation, and executive-level reports quarterly “to ensure they’re clear on the progress that we’re making, where we have risk, what we’re going to do to mitigate it and how we’re forecasting to end the year.”
Like with ROI, however, critics abound. Brinkerhoff said because the learning function has a dampened reputation in many organizations, learning leaders might have a hard time persuading senior leaders to buy into the idea of using TDRp. Many senior executives are satisfied thinking of training and development as an overhead cost and consider it a stretch to link learning to dollar value.
“People need to focus their evaluation inquiry efforts to tell the truth about training,” Brinkerhoff said. “Go to senior leaders and say, ‘I’ve got some good news and bad news. The good news is when the people who were using the training are shooting lights out with their sales or cost targets or are executing strategy, the training is working. The bad news is about 60 percent of the people aren’t using it at all, so we’ve got to figure out how to get more people using training sooner.’”
Vance admitted to the challenges, but said TDRp’s broader goal is to build more credibility with senior leaders and give the function more measurement direction. “We’re not doing measures or reports for measurement’s sake. We’re doing it because it’s the only way you can really manage the function to deliver its greatest impact for the business.”