You need to change the way you view training if you want to measure the impact of learning

Posted on: March 3, 2017Updated on: October 5, 2023By: Axonify Team

This past week Carol lead a webinar hosted by Training Industry on “How to Measure the Impact of Learning” and, once again, she hit it right out of the park. Carol has a unique method of taking a complicated process and distilling it down in a way that makes you feel like you’ve needed glasses all your life, and she’s given you a pair with just the right prescription.

It’s well worth watching the entire recording, but I’d like to pull out a few of the more salient points she brought up during the broadcast:

The traditional approach to learning simply doesn’t work any more

Does this sound familiar? An executive says to Learning and Development, “We need content.” That content could be around sales, or safety, or any number of topics. Then, L&D consults the appropriate subject matter experts, builds the content, and pushes it out. This could be via posters, emails, workshops or courses delivered through a Learning Management System.

After that…everyone crosses their fingers, and hopes for the best.

While this method gives executives a lot of content, it doesn’t give them any way to measure the business outcome of all of this training. In fact, only 30% of learning leaders deliver data to business and line managers. After all, what metrics can a poster give you? Even an LMS can only do so much. Course completions, test results—these limited measures don’t amount to more than checking a box, and that’s a far cry from the hard numbers that drive the business’s bottom line.

Flipping the formula on its head

It’s more important than ever for L&D to prove its worth. But this can’t happen without a modern approach. It’s not enough to design a course, deliver it, and hope the business outcomes magically follow. Instead, you’ve got to follow a different process:

Step 1 – Start with the business outcomes first

Business outcomes are the anchor points for your entire training process. By starting with the outcome you want to achieve, everyone is clear about the end goal—the reason why you’re training employees in the first place. This step aligns all the stakeholders from the get-go, so everyone’s on the same page about what needs to happen.

Step 2 – Identify the behaviors that your employees need to practice in order to achieve these business outcomes

Now that you’ve agreed on your business goals, you need to figure out the actions your workforce must take to reach these goals. Let’s say you want to decrease ladder safety incidents by 25%. In this case, to achieve this outcome, the correct behaviors your employees might need to exhibit include ensuring 3 points of contact at all times, or placing the ladder on a flat, stable surface.

Step 3 – Determine the knowledge your employees need to demonstrate the right behaviors

If employees don’t know what actions to take, they won’t follow the correct procedures. That’s why it is critical to identify what information employees need to learn in the first place to get the results you desire. For example, do your employees know that, for proper ladder safety, they need three points of contact at all times? Do they know exactly what this means? Do they know how to identify a stable surface and how to set up a ladder properly? Is there anything else they need to know to prevent an accident?

Step 4: Create the training content that will teach employees what they need to know

By identifying what employees need to know, you can create the best content to teach them the right information, so they know how to exhibit the right behaviors. And, of course, this aligns directly with the outcome. We find presenting microlearning content using a question format is a great method of building and reinforcing knowledge. Not only is this more engaging than passively consuming information, but asking people to retrieve answers from their brain (repeated retrieval) and presenting content in small chunks, are proven brain sciences techniques for building and retaining knowledge. This method also drives employees ­­to seek out the answers to questions they’ve struggled to solve, causing many of our customers to badger their organizations for more training. Seems like a nice problem to have, doesn’t it?

Carol used a great graphic to help illustrate this 4-step process. Feel free to use it when explaining how to take modern approach to corporate training:

When you take this “backwards” approach to your training process, you’re able to tie L&D content directly to business outcomes, and then measure the effectiveness of that content. Paired with the right tools, such as an Employee Knowledge Platform, your training process transforms into a learning and measurement powerhouse. No more guesswork around where employees are struggling to take the right actions on the job.

Time to rethink the LMS

I’d like to leave you with my favorite moment from the webinar, when an attendee asked Carol, “Do you see the LMS becoming extinct?”

Carol’s answer: “To be honest, I do. The LMS had a time and place. It was a substantial transformation from class-based instruction.

“But LMSs were largely architected 10 or more years ago, and what’s now happened is there’s been this really interesting evolution. We’ve seen the evolution of the modern learner; we’ve seen the evolution of technology and what is now possible with accessing the learner, and tracking what they do and know; and we’ve also seen the evolution of cognitive science done in the area of learning, that has exposed some really cool tips and techniques that drive knowledge and retention.

“When you can pull all those three things together, you’ve got a completely different experience than what the LMS is able to deliver. It takes bravery, and it takes leadership to make the leap from what’s comfortable, in terms of the LMS, to taking on a very different approach. But the rewards are tremendous, and extremely measurable, and highly impactful to the organization.”

You can find the full recording of the webinar here.

Axonify Team

We're lucky to have so many bright minds authoring content that's bold, innovative and offers a proven perspective on how to drive business results through frontline enablement. You can connect with us here.

Read More by Axonify Team