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Need Consensus to Connect Performance and Learning? Make the Right Arguments


Thu May 30 2024

Need Consensus to Connect Performance and Learning? Make the Right Arguments

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Corporate learning and performance programs are failing their people. As a result, organizations are bogged down by their slowest link—smart people who could be operating at their full potential but aren’t.

Without connected learning and performance programs, learners don’t know how to improve; leaders struggle to give meaningful feedback; and organizations waste time, energy, and resources on failed competency initiatives.


But what if you’re trying to connect performance and learning and it’s failing to land? You may have the right intentions with the wrong sentiment.

The problems start with the wrong mindset in the industry. Most learning management system (LMS) vendors focus on upskilling and content aggregation, neither of which affects learners or organizations (despite what they tell you). These directives also don’t connect the practices we both know should be inseparable: performance and learning.

As a performance learning management system (research.g2.com/insights/plms-performance-and-elearning-software) that started life as an LMS, we at Acorn know exactly how this separation can frustrate people.

The old school LMS is not designed to manage performance, which is the key part of this business case. Even if performance and learning are aligned in the form of competency-based programs, they aren’t digitally enabled. Spreadsheets on spreadsheets of performance data ultimately silo data, create issues with manual errors, and remove visibility of progress for learners. For many organizations, performance is only a box-ticking exercise, and most people are automatically rated three out of five regardless of their actual aptitude, attitude, or effort.

In other words, most organizations are telling their employees that they’re average and there’s nothing they can do about it.


You must look closer to home to be able to do your due diligence with vendors. Many L&D teams look at return on investment (ROI) through the lens of their role. When an average of $1,220 USD is spent on training each employee (statista.com/topics/4281/workplace-learning-and-development/#editorsPicks), metrics like knowledge retention and courses completed mean nothing to business leaders. Most want to see how their specific remits are being improved so they can prove their own business impact.

And if learning’s job is to help others show impact, why are we not using performance metrics to show said impact?

So, consider:

  • What are the current challenges you and your business are facing?

  • What systems out there can help you solve those challenges?

  • What are the total costs of the project?

  • How will the purchase be justified by ROI?

If we break that down (and generalize a few details), that could look like:

1. Inability to create effective learning, manage performance reviews, or have meaningful performance conversations with current management systems.


2. Your current LMS is not working and you’re looking for one that deals with capabilities, not skills.

3. You’re losing money on your current LMS if it doesn’t improve performance. The cost to change systems now and investments in capabilities will pay more than dividends later.

4. Again, think of the metrics that matter to business. Increased productivity, team effectiveness, and engagement are all good, but also include capabilities as direct lines of causation between training and business performance.

The core message is how performance and learning programs will work together to support broader organizational goals, and capabilities are the only way to get there. Capabilities connect performance (as key indicators) and learning (when mapped to specific content—not just any) to create training that is meaningful for learners and effective for business.

When you’re ready to evaluate vendors who can align learning and performance, it’s handy to have a formal checklist to follow. A request for proposal template (info.acorn.works/rfp-template) will help you weed out the straight LMSs and those who have a suite of learning and performance products from those who truly align performance and learning in one.

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