How L&D leaders can demonstrate value
Posted on 20th July, 2017 by Ben Miller
L&D leaders have traditionally struggled to shine a spotlight on the immense value of learning to businesses, finding the impact of their programmes largely associated with compliance training and cost-cutting. While new technologies and analytics tools are creating a precise, data-driven culture, L&D is often judged by Return on Investment (ROI), which can only ever offer a limited view of its effectiveness.
As important as compliance and efficiency is, L&D has huge potential to be seen as a driver of business impact rather than merely a course deliverer. But in order to truly reflect this, it is vital to effectively measure the true value that L&D brings to business leaders and learners. As part of the latest Towards Maturity research, supported by LEO, a new report from Laura Overton and Dr Genny Dixon takes a look at the business impact that learning programmes can have.
Speaking to more than 600 learning leaders, as well as a sample of more than 4,500 workers, the report discovered that performance and on-the-job productivity soars among companies who have refined the way they gather and analyse learning data. A major challenge for businesses, according to the report, lies in improving the way organisations measure the business impact of learning: 93% of L&D leaders consider data analytics skills a priority, but very few have these skills in house.
This confirms LEO’s findings from our own research into the growing appetite for measuring the impact of learning at work, which found that while 85% of L&D leaders want to use analytics to improve learning, only 47% of organisations feel that big data has a significant impact on their processes.
Learning offers big boosts across the board
The report also highlights the importance of measuring business impact. For example, when L&D leaders do have the opportunity to work with senior management and use technology to monitor impact, they are three times more likely to find staff reaching competency quickly and being responsive to business change, with the figures mirrored in the number of respondents showing improved performance.
In fact, L&D leaders who successfully use technology to monitor impact report a much higher increase in benefits across a range of criteria – from customer satisfaction and on-the-job productivity, to talent retention and effective risk management.
Piers Lea, LEO’s Chief Strategy Officer, says people are “finally starting to realise” the potential of worthwhile measurement and gathering significant data to prove impact. “At first glance, the headline numbers might suggest the industry is going backwards,” he says, observing the disparity between those looking to improve their approach to data and the number achieving this aim.
“Those using technology to record learning activity and performance improvement are performing so much better than those that do not.” Lea points to the additional improvement of groups that involve line management in learning, and says there are “no longer any excuses” for not creating “watertight” business cases for learning.
“As an industry, we need to mature – fast. We can see clearly that learning makes a crucial difference to performance,” he adds.
Proper tracking shows L&D’s impact
The good news is that there is a clear desire for the industry to change. Seven in 10 workers want to maximise business processes to do their job faster and better, and the majority are seeking to raise their productivity. Almost all L&D leaders want to use technology to improve their data on learning impact, even if only 16% are reaching their goal.