Are Your Training Interventions Driving Value for Your Organisation?

As organisations strive to equip their people to succeed in today’s challenging environment a key question emerges constantly; how can we maximise the business impact of our training investment? This question is understandable given the acute focus on budgets and the pressing need to demonstrate positive behaviour change in a tech-savvy era where learners demand faster and more engaging learning experiences.  In this blog, we explore how budget holders can justify and grow investment in people development by proving the impact of learning on organisational performance.

The Issue: Happy and You Know It?

Research indicates that up to two-thirds of investment in training has no discernible impact on business performance (Source: PeopleWay) — that’s millions wasted on time, energy and precious budgets.  The reasons for this are many and varied e.g. poor alignment between training programmes and strategic objectives, inaccurate needs analysis, and failure to bring about behavioural changes and sustain them.

Accurately calculating return-on-investment (ROI) from learning interventions can be challenging without a clear measurement framework within which to work. Companies spend thousands on courses but struggle to measure the true effect on competencies, behaviour and performance.

Moreover, many organisations are still employing rudimentary evaluation approaches that belong in the previous century — such as the notorious ‘happy sheets’ completed by participants at the end of a training session. These methods are largely ineffective and provide no hard correlation between course satisfaction and the effect of the learning. They fail to answer the big question: has the money allocated made a difference to the bottom line in the short and long term?

It is understandable, given the perceived poor ROI delivered by most learning interventions, that many organisations are tempted to cut their learning and development budgets in difficult times. Thus, we have a paradoxical situation that at the exact time when investment in capability is most required many employees are being deprived of the development they so desperately require.

It doesn’t have to be this way …

The Way Forward: Demonstrating Value

Successful people development programmes deliver a focused and measurable change in capability, which leads to improved business performance. To understand whether this is happening, budget holders must measure and evaluate the effect learning interventions have on the ability of the workforce to drive strategic objectives.

The impact of training should be measured with the same rigorous and routine way in which organisations track the performance of their business and their brands.

Impact Management is an award-winning discipline that involves hard-wiring learning outcomes with business objectives, measuring effectiveness in hard metrics, and using the insight gained to continuously improve people development programmes.

To demonstrate value, budget holders need to establish exactly what knowledge was transferred, whether attitudes are aligned and how behaviour was modified post-training to enable better and faster achievement of business results. This requires a new paradigm, where:

Hardwire Learning to Business Objectives

People development programmes should be strongly aligned to commercial aims such as improving profits, delivering against sales targets or improving Net Promoter Scores (NPS). This is the only way to ensure capability is built around the competencies that will drive performance.

It will also foster engagement, as learners — as well as those holding the purse strings – will clearly see the relevance of the course they’ve been asked to attend or the online seminar they’ve been invited to watch.

Drawing up an Impact Map will support the alignment process, enabling learning interventions to be targeted to address specific needs. This can be done relatively quickly by gathering together senior people from different functions to identify their organisation’s must-win commercial battles and skills gaps. According to Peopleway, Kantar Consulting’s strategic partner, organisations that use the Impact Map generate a 20% improvement in learning transfer to the job.

Build a Winning Culture

Gaining knowledge alone is not sufficient to drive performance. Ultimately, it is the behavioural change created through learning that drives future success or failure. People need to be able to apply and implement what they’ve learned in a positive way.

Identifying and measuring the critical winning behaviours that drive business results is a key part of Impact Management, enabling training programmes to be designed accordingly.

Monitor and Measure Impact

Organisations need to know what progress has been made because of training. Will the employee be more capable of helping the business meet its commercial objectives?

Appraising competencies before and after training will enable the value of learning to be quantified. Has there been a marked improvement in the employee’s performance, and has this advanced the business? This will also highlight whether a learning intervention could be better targeted in future to improve results, and whether a participant requires specific support to address remaining development areas.

Training effectiveness can also be assessed by combining various data streams, such as improvements to NPS, and other customer feedback.

An Impact Map will support measurement by enabling the assessment of knowledge gaps before training, followed by the evaluation of learning effectiveness against benchmarks afterwards. This will provide the evidence that makes it easier to articulate ROI to defend budgets using a proven methodology aligned with the Kirkpatrick worldwide standard for evaluating training.

Continuous Improvement

The insight gained through using the Impact Map and measuring the effectiveness of training will highlight elements of the programme content and delivery that can be changed, refined and strengthened ahead of the next learning intervention. Reports to participants and their line managers facilitate a coaching ecosystem where an individual learning pathway can be tailored to address personal development areas, whilst delivering against business objectives.

Best Practice: A Combination of Tech and Expertise

In this era of blended learning, the most effective approach to Impact Management involves implementing a user-friendly cloud-based Impact Management tool and seeking support from a training provider capable of extracting actionable insights from the tool’s database.

Ideally, the tool should include predictive analytics and capability analytics to identify the specific competencies and behaviours that statistically correlate to improved Key Performance Indicators. Expert guidance, meanwhile, can help with improving programme design and balancing ambition with investment, for example.

Digitalisation, volatile market conditions and increased global competition mean that a business’s ability to develop its people quickly and effectively might be the only sustainable source of competitive advantage left. The biggest brands we work with are already embracing the new Impact Management paradigm, to ensure the investment they make in training is money well spent. The organisations that keep doing what they’ve always done, on the other hand, will find that the skills gaps currently holding them back get wider and wider, and further intensify the pressure on their learning and development (L&D) budgets.

How Mature Is Your Organisation’s Impact Management? Ask Yourself These Questions.

  1. How robust would you rate your current mechanism for measuring the impact of learning interventions? Score 1-10
  2. How effective is your current approach to demonstrating ROI in L&D to your C-suite? Score 1-10
  3. Are the objectives of your capability building programmes consistently hard-wired to business goals? Score 1-10
  4. To what extent does the human resources function drive the capability building agenda? Do they respond to perceived demand from the business instead? Score from 0 (order takers) to 10 (drivers)
  5. How confident are you that you’re investing L&D budgets effectively, objectively, and targeted at learning outcomes that deliver against business objectives? Score 1-10

If your score is below 25/50, come and talk to us.

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