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Developing and implementing a learning and development plan is only half the story – you also have to show that your learning is having a real impact within your organization.
And there’s more to that than just gathering some data, picking out a few metrics, and pointing to “success” on paper.
Over the past five months, talent management and learning specialists RedThread Research have surveyed more than 40 L&D leaders about their strategies for measuring and analyzing employee development.
And earlier this week, RedThread shared their findings with us during our webinar, “Having Learning Impact vs. Showing Learning Impact.”
RedThread co-founder and principal analyst, Dani Johnson, highlighted six practices that leading organizations follow to demonstrate what they do to encourage and deliver employee development, and the impact it has on their organizations.
1. Understand Your Business Goals
In order to carry out your L&D strategy successfully, it’s important that leaders are aware of, and understand, their organization’s overall aims.
There are three basic questions that more evolved organizations need to ask about setting clear business goals:
1. Business direction: how will L&D affect the business goals?
2. How success is measured: how does the organization measure business goals?
3. Collaboration is key: who do you need to collaborate with in order to ensure that this is successful?
2. Consider All the Levers of Learning Impact
RedThread found that there are six “levers” to learning, and in order to enable learning in the workplace, L&D leaders should be using them all.
- Plan: how are we helping employees to plan their own development?
- Discover: how do we help employees to find what they need?
- Consume: what channels do we provide for delivering learning content and experiences?
- Experiment: how do we enable experimentation with new knowledge and skills?
- Connect: are we connecting employees with each other in the right ways?
- Perform: how do we help people to learn while doing their job?
3. Make Your Metrics, Choose Data
Many organizations default to the metrics that their learning technology offers them. But RedThread found that more evolved organizations determined their own metrics and chose their own data sources.
There is often confusion between data and metrics, and in order to choose the right measurements for your organization, you need to understand the differences between the two.
There are four main characteristics that you can use to define metrics:
- Contextual: metrics aren’t just numbers on a screen. There has to be context as to why they’re chosen.
- Deliberate: they are chosen deliberately to tie into a particular measure of success.
- Calculated: metrics can be analyzed to determine their value, and how or where they should be applied.
- Directional: metrics are used to measure success, so understanding which way you want your metrics to move is really important.
Choosing your data sources is important too, so don’t just round up the usual suspects – look for data that will help you tell your story.
4. Choose Leading and Lagging Indicators
L&D leaders also highlighted the importance of using indicators to predict and explain trends in data. These kinds of indicators can be split into two types: leading indicators and lagging indicators.
Lagging indicators are used to confirm long-term trends, as significant changes in a company generally occur before trends in the market.
Leading indicators are often predictive in nature, and can offer valuable information to help organizations to adjust or change.
5. Be Consistent
When it comes to collecting data, consistency is key. The L&D leaders highlighted two factors to keep in mind to help keep your data consistent.
First, even if you’re collecting the right metrics, they aren’t always immediately useful. Make sure that you collect them consistently over time, so you can refer to them at the moment of need.
Second, make sure that you’re standardizing your results. Collect and format data in the same way across your organization.
6. Illustrate Your Story
When you’re telling your data story, present it in the most engaging, compelling way. Here are three things that top L&D leaders consider when delivering their information.
Be graphic: a picture is worth a thousand words, so grab people’s attention with a great visual display. Use charts and diagrams and images, not just facts and figures.
Know your audience: think about who you’re presenting to, and make sure you’re talking about the data points that are important to them.
Focus: it can sometimes be tempting to include everything, but not all data is relevant to everyone. Make sure that you only use data that helps to make your point, or tells your story.