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Report Now Available: Measuring the Business Impact of Learning in 2020

The fourth edition of our annual measuring the business impact of learning survey report is now available. This year’s results suggest that organizations are having difficulty moving beyond basic measurements. In this blog post from report co-author Piers Lea, we reveal some key insights and recommendations from the full report.

Since 2017, more than 1,300 L&D professionals have shared with us their thoughts and experiences on the topic of learning measurement. In this year’s report, we discerned three key issues in the data and extended responses we received.

The solutions boil down to L&D’s need to renegotiate and get more comfortable with working with data and stakeholders. While the corporate world has proven consistent in its desire to measure the impact of its L&D investment, the amount of real-world examples to back up these intentions has been lacking. Therefore, in addition to the proof points for these problems, we look at some examples of organizations implementing solutions.

Here’s a taster of that analysis:

Problem #1: Big Data Has a Business-Wide Impact, but L&D Is Having Difficulty Using It

Though 91% agree or strongly agree that big data has a significant impact on their organization, L&D departments are struggling to exploit these large and diverse datasets. 15% of L&D departments say they don’t know where to start. Another 14% say that measuring the impact of learning is simply too difficult (up from 5% in 2019). Along with the 14% who flag ‘no access to data’ (explored further in problem #3), these increases are concerning.

The Solution

Thankfully, the solution here is simple enough: start small. Ideally, this involves mapping out your learning ecosystem and determining how best to measure individual business KPIs with what you already have.

The report looks at an interesting example of proof-of-concept learning from The Behr Paint Company. By using an xAPI-enabled training and sales enablement app, they demonstrate how it’s possible to measure KPI-driving behavior—even on a small budget.

Problem #2: L&D Knows It Must Measure, But It Needs to Secure Buy-In

The key takeaway from 2019’s report was that executives were increasing pressure on their L&D departments to measure the impact of their learning projects. We expected to see this continue to rise—instead, the number of respondents reporting executive pressure fell from 67% to 63%. Meanwhile, 53% of L&D departments are either not measured or are only subject to basic measurements (such as content utilization or learner satisfaction).

It seems likely that leadership doesn’t yet understand what is possible with better measurement types (return on investment, organization impact, job performance improvement). This leaves L&D exposed: if measurement isn’t in demand, is it being funded?

The Solution

Many L&D professionals are now working to put measuring the business impact of learning back on the boardroom agenda. This requires a multi-pronged approach. The rest of the business typically needs to be shown what impact measurement actually looks like, and L&D needs to demonstrate a long-term strategy.

In the report, we suggest 10 key components for a measurement strategy that secures buy-in—covering collaborative ownership, everything you need to map and document, piloting, and measurement. This list is in-part inspired Visa’s Visa University initiative, which shows how a once compliance-driven learning environment can be transformed into a highly-successful long-term and learner-driven strategy.

Problem #3: Data is Valuable But Elusive

From the problem of “Business stakeholders [who] don’t want to provide answers” to the challenges of systems that “Rely on programmers to create reports from the LMS”, many respondents experience data access issues. Furthermore, for the last four years, ‘no access to the data’ has remained a top-three answer to the question “what is the biggest challenge of measuring the impact of learning in your organization?’

The Solution

The persistent sense of frustration around data access needs to be challenged. We believe that the solution involves securing advocates, talking to vendors, and creating demos that demonstrate to these groups what is expected and what can be achieved.

In the full report, we discuss communicating and aligning on your vision with reference to Caterpillar’s vendor vetting process. By having specific data format requirements, the machinery giant was able to standardize its customer experience across its huge global dealer network. A similar approach could work for your organization.

Read the Full Results and Analysis

The report, including full results and extended commentary from Piers Lea, Chief Strategy Officer at LEO Learning and Tim Dickinson, Director of Strategy at Watershed, is available now. Click the button below to get your copy.

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