October 2017
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TD Magazine

Don’t Evaluate the Garbage

Many learning programs focus on the numbers business leaders don't care about.

Trends come and go within the talent development industry. However, some come around and stay—one example is evaluating learning and determining organizational impact.


In an environment where companies must do more with less, talent development leaders' ability to show their value is crucial. In the Towards Maturity report Making an Impact: How L&D Leaders Can Demonstrate Value, Genny Dixon and Laura Overton address this foundational requirement and offer several recommendations.

One area the authors characterize as essential to determining impact is vetting the quality of any data you use in an evaluation. "Garbage in, garbage out" is a common phrase when working with numbers. And even when your data aren't garbage, the conclusions you draw from them will be if you don't look at the right metrics.

When that occurs, talent development leaders end up providing unnecessary or unusable information to management. And according to the Towards Maturity research, that happens often.


Almost 70 percent of L&D teams track completion rates for training and 24 percent track reduction in study time, but only 13 percent evaluate improvements in productivity. It's the latter area, though, that training departments should focus on if they want colleagues to perceive them as valued business partners. The study notes that executives are more than twice as likely to invest in workforce development if it improves productivity than if it delivers a positive ROI.

If you're interested in getting started with learning evaluation, the report offers a simple three-step method:

  • Start well. Know what success should look like for both you and your stakeholder. Ensure your plan aligns with their key performance indicators.
  • Work together. Involve the right team members in your process. Ensure you're collecting the correct data in the most effective and efficient manner, and that timelines and outcomes are realistic.
  • Share results. Have a plan to communicate consistently, and keep senior leaders aware of your evaluation efforts.
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