Human Capital Media Advisory Group just released research on measurement in learning and development organizations. There were 335 respondents representing companies of all sizes, and 65 percent of the respondents were at the director level or above. So, a good sample!
The survey asked what measures are shared with company executives to demonstrate the impact of training on the organization — a great question. Not surprisingly, 77 percent report output data like number of participants and classes, and 55 percent organize their output data by corporate initiative. Almost 60 percent report participant satisfaction. These two measures tell an executive that you are busy doing something and that the participants like whatever it is that you are doing. Thirty-six percent report business impact, and 22 percent report ROI.
While some executives are interested in output data and satisfaction, research by Jack Phillips and others consistently shows that senior leaders really want to know how well aligned L&D is with corporate goals, the impact of L&D initiatives on those goals and the value of the L&D initiatives. The good news is that more than half organize their output data by company initiative, which shows alignment.
Here’s my advice: Organize this information by corporate goal and not training initiative. In other words, the left-hand column in your table should be the corporate goal followed by the training output data that supports the goal. Most have the training program in the left-hand column and show the corporate goal to the right. Make it a “business centric” table organized by goal, not training activity.
The bad news is that only 36 percent report business impact and only 9 percent report ROI. Company executives are clearly not getting what they really want. Is it really any wonder why many executives are still skeptical of their investment in L&D? Impact and value are less important for compliance training and basic skills, where the goal should be to design and deliver them as efficiently and effectively as possible. In other words, find the least cost way to do what needs to be done.
However, for “discretionary” — not mandated by law or essential — initiatives, it is critical that they be tightly aligned to the organization’s key goals, contribute to achieving the company’s goals (have impact) and be worth doing (the benefit will exceed the cost). Otherwise these initiatives should not be undertaken. Alignment, impact and value are all important, and because most organizations do invest in discretionary training, company executives need to hear about these measures. So, we still have a long way to go.
To close the gap, learning leaders need to start doing a more proactive job on the front end by meeting with the CEO or other senior leader to learn next year’s company goals. Then they should meet with individual goal owners to determine if discretionary training programs could help achieve their goal. If L&D could help achieve a goal, the goal owner and senior L&D leaders need to agree on the specifics of the initiative, the planned impact of the initiative on the goal and on what will be required from each party, such as reinforcement by the goal owner and stakeholders. They should also discuss the expected cost and benefit to make sure the program is worth doing. For example, Talent Development Reporting Principlesis designed to help learning leaders do all of this. Whichever methodology is employed, we need more proactive focus on these three measures — alignment, impact and value — which are so important to company executives.Filed under: Leadership Development