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The Value of Learning Impact Measurement, With Piers Lea

A new driver for learning measurement is emerging. We need to know what’s working. How are new learning initiatives and strategies landing with learners? What impact are they having? Where are the successes? Where are the challenges? Where are the opportunities for the future?

We know it’s important, but LEO Learning, as specialists in learning innovation, are keen to dig deeper to understand what businesses think. That’s why we’ve been carrying out ongoing research in Europe and the US.

We took a few moments with Piers Lea, LEO Learning’s Chief Strategy Officer, to discuss the thinking behind the survey.

Why is LEO Learning carrying out this research?

We know there is a large amount of value in workplace learning, yet people rarely get around to measuring and understanding the true impact that it’s having on business. I’ve spoken to one client, with a budget of €100m, who described training as “the last great unmeasured spend in modern business”. But what would happen if we put the brakes on workplace learning? It would be pretty disastrous.

With no measurement in place, it’s always tempting for those setting budgets to wield the red pen, and when L&D tries for greater investment at this time (when customer experience is probably the last true differentiator for many businesses) their budget requests are rejected because the business cases are too weak.

That’s why we think it’s important to find out what the appetite is for measurement and what the blockers are.

RECOMMENDED READING | 'Measuring the Business Impact of Learning: The Definitive Guide'

Why are we doing this now?

We’re doing it now because we’ve been hearing the question asked more and more among our clients. The short answer is that in the past, it’s been very difficult to measure learning impact. The problem with manual benchmarks, and creating sample sizes large enough to be able to measure who has learnt and who hasn’t, is that it’s very time consuming. Yet that’s what you need in order to reach a measured learning impact. We have done it with our clients, measuring a 73% behaviour change for 5,000 British Airways staff for example, but it’s hard work, and the history of L&D is littered with failed attempts at properly evaluated results because everyone runs out of steam before the process is complete.

What’s different is that now, with the use of big data and new standard xAPI, it’s possible to correlate what people are learning and the business impact. It requires a one-time effort to set up dashboarding systems, which enable the business to build a picture of the patterns of the workforce over a period of time and collate to all kinds of different measurement. This will include the usual correlations of staff surveys, customer satisfaction, sales etc, as well as all kinds of business efficiencies such as ‘right first time’ in technical and other decision-making processes. But ultimately this works with the hugely wide range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) businesses use. It’s startling that the one thing that isn’t measured is the effect of learning, and there’s no better time to find out why.

Are there any early results?

Our current research is still ongoing, but what we’ve discovered so far is that 87% of L&D now think that it’s a top priority. We will publish the full findings in early 2017.

What is LEO Learning intending to do with the results of the research?

We’ll be using the results to better inform our work and help our clients. We are setting up measurement strategies and learning intervention processes and will be sharing the stories for all to learn from.

We’ll keep asking these questions on an annual basis in order to track the results, and of course for those that complete the survey, we’ll be sharing the full results with them. We really hope that this data can benefit everyone and ultimately maximise cost performance and businesses impact across many organisations now and in the years to come.

To do this we will be working across Learning Technologies Group, with Rustici in the US and with Mike Rustici at Watershed. We will be mixing the best of strategic theory with practical solutions based on deep understanding of xAPI (the emerging standard by which to measure all learning activity) and the systems to make the output useful as management dashboards.

What is the level of interest in measuring the impact of learning in your organisation and what, if anything, is standing in your way? Your voice will make a valuable contribution to the findings.

Discover how LEO Learning can make data and measurement work for you.

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