How do learning and development professionals provide results executives (and others) will love? The answer is quite simple: they plan for those results. Executives want to see the business value of learning programs. Demonstrating the business value of learning is a process that must permeate the learning cycle, starting with why? Delivering the business value from learning involves 10 steps.
1. Start with why. Most, if not all, learning and development programs should start with why. This is often a business connection to improve measures, such as productivity, quality, cycle time, cost reduction, retention, compliance, engagement, customer satisfaction, and customer loyalty, to name a few.
2. Connect to the right solution. Many programs are implemented for the wrong reasons. They may be requested by an executive team who thinks learning is the solution, or it may be based on a trend or a hot topic. While the program may be interesting and important, it may not be needed for the target audience. Connecting a proposed learning program directly to a business need will ensure that it’s the right solution to drive that business need.
3. Define expectations. All stakeholders need to know what’s expected of them. This often starts with setting objectives at different levels for reaction, learning, application, impact, and even ROI, when needed. It also involves setting expectations for designers, developers, facilitators, participants, managers of participants, and sponsors who must know that learning is most successful when it has been applied and has an impact in the organization.
4. Design for results. Programs must be designed to deliver results, ensuring that there is appropriate focus on application and impact. Tools, templates, and action plans must be in place and proper support must be provided to help achieve the desired results.
5. Create or acquire powerful content. The heart of any program is content. While the learning environment and experience are important, the content is most important to drive business value. The content must be something the participants will use.
6. Deliver for efficiency and effectiveness. In today’s workplace, the focus is on delivering learning with less cost, more convenience, and in shorter time spans. But the learning must also be effective, delivering the value that is needed.
7. Ensure the transfer of learning. Examine the environment even before the new learning solution is developed to make sure that the barriers are either minimized or removed and that there are sufficient enablers to make learning work.
8. Measure results. Results are measured at the different levels, always measuring at Reaction, because it is a good predictor of program’s later success. Learning (Level 2) should be measured for 80-90 percent of programs and Application (Level 3) for about 30 percent of programs. Business Impact should be measured in about 10-20 percent of programs. Finally, for programs that are very expensive, important, and strategic, the evaluation should be pushed to ROI (Level 5), typically in 5 percent of programs
9. Communicate the results to key stakeholders. Communicating the results to the key stakeholders is vital. Many groups need to see success (and opportunities for improvement). Managers of participants want to see the success for application and impact. Top executives who provide budgets need the results for future funding decisions.
10. Use the results for optimization and allocation. Results are powerful, particularly when evaluations at Level 3, 4, and 5 are pursued. The data should be used to improve programs, so they can deliver more value in the future, optimizing the return on investment. Higher returns may reveal better ways to allocate funding for programs in the future. Evaluation leads to optimization, which leads to better allocation of budgets.
Following these 10 steps will make a significant difference in the value of learning and development and its effect on the organization, providing the results executives (and others) will love.
Want to learn more? Join me in New Orleans for the ATD Core 4 Conference.