At the Learning Technologies conference in January 2012, delegates were asked to share their priorities for the year. Alongside aligning learning and development (L&D) activity with the business, one of the major priorities was evaluation.
There seems to be some way to go on measuring the impact of learning initiatives, however. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's (CIPD) 2011 "Learning and talent development report", 48% of organisations surveyed measure return on expected outcomes.
To measure or not measure?
The debate around training return on investment (ROI) has rumbled on for some time. Back in 2007, for example, Personnel Today ran a piece on the pros and cons of evaluation.
In the same year, TrainingZone (free subscription required) ran two articles reflecting both sides of the debate, Why training ROI doesn't matter and ROI is not the enemy, which both generated plenty of debate in the comments section.
And, in his post The fallacy of ROI in L&D?, L&D manager Sukh Pabial brings the debate back to the present day. In so doing, we see that the issue is now not only about the return on investment of training but the relevancy of the L&D team as well.
Where next with ROI?
Kenneth Fee and Dr Alasdair Rutherford have written a useful article on navigating the learning evaluation maze (free registration required) that provides a look at the main concepts in evaluation, from goal-based evaluation to system-based evaluation. It also includes a list of the key measurement tools available.
Make sure you read the comments, as they feature a good discussion of other forms of measurement and evaluation, including Brinkerhoff's success case method and Dave Basarab's predictive evaluation model.
In Analytics beyond Kirkpatrick (free subscription required), Alan Bellinger moves beyond the Kirkpatrick view of training as an event, which many see as a weakness in the Kirkpatrick model. He argues that L&D needs to view learning as a process and focus on how that affects performance.
The theme of performance is picked up by Al Bird in his blog post on evaluating performance. Bird argues that L&D impact needs to be aligned with business impact so that everyone is talking the same language: "As L&D professionals, we need to look at the way our companies or clients are measuring business success, so that similar terminology can be used in training evaluations."
Richard Paul Grifﬁn, associate director at the Institute of Vocational Education at London South Bank University, presents a new way of approaching evaluation based on a review of how organisations currently evaluate learning in Workplace learning evaluation: a conceptual model and framework (registration required).
His model of workplace learning is based on ﬁve elements: a pre-learning stage; the "trigger" (need) for learning; the learning event; application of learning; and the impact of learning.
His aim is to provide what he calls a "scientiﬁcally robust but practitioner-friendly framework for workplace learning evaluation".
Griffin's approach may provide some new focus on the best ways evaluate the impact of learning interventions.
In the meantime, if you are at the CIPD's HRD conference this week and want to find out more about ROI, then you might be interested in attending the proving the ROI of L&D session on Thursday.