A new survey ranks improving business performance as a low-priority metric in measuring the value of training. But if we want to increase productivity, how can we link it to learning?
The recession hit learning and development functions hard, with many shrinking in size as organisations trimmed their training budgets.
But, with figures from the Office for National Statistics highlighting low levels of productivity in the UK, skills shortages in important areas of the economy and universally low employee engagement levels, many would have thought L&D would be skipping up the boardroom agenda as a potential solution.
It’s about L&D developing a stronger connection to the business so that it becomes confident of the function’s value.” – Kevin Young, SkillSoft
In reality though, according to a survey of 500 UK business leaders commissioned by L&D software provider SkillSoft, Skill Builders Versus Skill Buyers, the opposite is true.
When it comes to quantifying the value of training, helping to improve business performance ranks relatively low, in fifth place, behind other measures such as enabling career development.
This implies that the people at the top are not seeing the benefits of any current initiatives being felt in key business areas such as productivity, engagement, and retention – in other words, L&D is struggling to make the grade.
Kevin Young, Skillsoft’s managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, explains: “One of the key and consistent elements of success that we see is aligning L&D programmes to required business outcomes, such as customer satisfaction, reduction in failure rates and the like.”
However, he adds that too many people still focus on L&D metrics such as how many employees took a certain course and what they thought of it, which is “useful to increase the efficiency of the function, but meaningless to senior executives”.
Another challenge, Young believes, is that too many L&D departments have simply failed to make the transition from formal classroom-based learning, which is still used by a huge 72% of respondents, towards more informal learning methods.
These methods include collaborative, social, online and mobile learning initiatives, which are often integrated into day-to-day staff activities, or done on personal time or whenever is convenient.
Measuring the effectiveness of such schemes can undoubtedly be tricky due to their informal and piecemeal nature.
But the secret is to work with business stakeholders from the outset to define what success looks like and then measure the end result of all the initiatives together on business outcomes.
As Young concludes: “It’s about measuring business outcomes and business impact. It’s hard, but it’s about L&D developing a stronger connection to the business so that it becomes confident of the function’s value.
“If business leaders are only ranking business performance at number five, however, the implication is that there’s still a long way to go.”