January 2011
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TD Magazine

Putting Hard Numbers to Soft Investments

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

We spent a good portion of 2010 examining how workplace learning fits into the Web 2.0 phenomenon, and those learning professionals who hadn't ventured into this arena began dabbling in social media tools to find new ways to deliver learning and development solutions.

Now is the time to apply hard numbers to these tools and ask the critical question, "Was it a good business investment?" Just as you would for any other learning program, it is critical that you know what to measure in Web 2.0 technologies, how to measure them, and how to present the results to the rest of the business. Many company executives recognize the critical role that learning plays in the success of their companies, but for learning departments to maintain their credibility and value, they must provide the results, measures, metrics, and analytics to show how their learning initiatives align with the organization's goals and strategies.

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According to Jim Sterne, who wrote a column on Larry Chase's blog and is the author of Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success, the Web Analytics Association is actively pursuing a set of standards for measuring social media. But there is no timetable set for this endeavor, and learning professionals cannot wait to prove value for their Web 2.0 learning initiatives.

In this month's cover story "How Does Social Learning Measure Up?" Karie Willyerd and Gene A. Pease provide a measurement approach to apply statistical certainty to the success of future programs, because as they wrote in the article, "A learning function may be asked to implement many soft investments, such as leadership development, communication skills or, more recently, social learning. For these investments, companies must go beyond surveys, smile sheets, and dashboards, to embrace a measurement toolbox that keeps pace with new learning approaches."

Training is a critical part of business, and like any other aspect of business, it requires an investment. To ensure that learning receives the financial support necessary to improve employee development, learning professionals must deliver the data that executives demand. Web 2.0 technologies may be fairly new to many organizations, but learning professionals can't wait to prove that this new delivery option is a worthy investment.

Paula Ketter

Editor, T+D

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[email protected]

About the Author

Paula Ketter is ATD's content strategist. Previously, she served as editor of ATD's periodicals.

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