Prove the value of training by measuring outcomes

Many business decision-makers see learning as a discretionary spending item. They are willing to allocate budgets when times are good, but cut back during harder times. Measuring demonstrable return on investment (ROI) is one way training managers can ensure their budgets are not squeezed at a time when they are crucial to organisational performance.

Rather than cutting spending, having a sound measurement programme in place that aids smart business decision-making can enable expenditure switching. Using metrics training managers can deliver modality mixes – replacing costly instructor-led training with more efficient e-learning. Metrics are critical to knowing where your training efforts should be focused.

Without a metrics programme, how can you tell there has been a return on investment? As training becomes increasingly diffused throughout organisations, how can you collate all the required information from disparate data sources? Organisations need a yardstick against which to measure their performance.

Since many learning professionals use technology limitations as a way of getting out of delivering real performance-based metrics, how do you ensure you get it right? For a start, a sceptical approach to learning management system (LMS) implementation is healthy. LMSs are produced, and often marketed, by technologists. The downside of this is that they are designed, sold and marketed on the inaccurate premise that all data is perfect.

We know the reality is that organisational data is far from perfect. Any serious LMS implementation, and metrics programme, will need to devote significant resources to tackling data first. Only once this has been completed, is it possible to think about how the LMS can add value to the company.

Think about what your real needs are and how they can be met. We’ve seen many organisations evolving away from ad-hoc spreadsheets and databases being seduced by sophisticated systems that are too complex for their needs. As little time was devoted to working out their needs, decision-makers jumped into buying something they might need in years’ time when their company became more mature as a learning organisation.

Centralise your data into a single point. This will give visibility to all users and make reporting simpler and more flexible as your needs evolve. Also change your expectations of reporting. Producing meaningful metrics is a service, not a product.

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