Only What Gets Measured Will Get Done: The Vital Importance of Learning Data in a Time of Renewed Business Growth

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Hi there and welcome back. I expect you have been keeping a close eye on economic news for the past few months, as more and more evidence seems to be mounting up that the UK is finally climbing out of the deep hole that the post-2008 ‘Great Recession’ put us in.

Indications that GDP and employment, all the main indices of recovery and a return to business growth, are pointing in the right direction at last are to be welcomed. But as we get ready to shift gears, there are some unresolved issues around how oganisaions treat learning and development (L&D) when they are in a growth phase.

I’ve been involved in the learning training area for many years and one of the key aspects of training and building human capital that I have constantly gone back to is a statement a colleague once made: ‘If it gets measured it gets done.’

That’s a very important statement. It’s particularly important when looking at technology within the L&D environment where we are looking for proper, measurable business benefits around what we do.

Take self-service – something I talk to customers a lot about and a topic that I have discussed on previous blogs. The business case is deceptively simple: ‘We want to empower our users to get on and develop themselves at their own pace.’ Fantastic. And technology, especially our own V1 LTM platform, allows us to do that in a very straightforward, simple way. For users, it isn’t a complex process; they can plan and manage all their learning requirements.

But if you stop there, that’s great, but you will miss a big trick.

And that trick is: you won’t be measuring the payback, the impact that training ultimately gives back to customers and the orgnanisation. You aren’t capturing the ROI, the return on investment. Really, you are missing out on the data… and you can’t turn around in modern life and business without seeing the importance of data, big, mobile and little (Internet of Things?) everywhere.

Avoiding the mistakes of the past

I think that’s happened before – that we built great L&D technology, e.g. e-learning’s first generation – and failed to track its impact in a way that the rest of the business needs to see.

The really good news is that we don’t have to do that this time. We have metrics built-in to modern L&D that numerically, quantifiably, can measure the progress of our team members in a way that the business can understand.

That’s a lesson – maybe a warning? – for the L&D side of the business. There’s a flip side, an equivalent lesson/warning, for the business itself. If you are getting ready to start growing your revenues and market share, one of the key things you should be considering is growing the skills level with your human capital. It’s genuinely true that only with the right people in place are objectives going to be met.

We need to step up and help you do that. We in L&D need to start using technology to help craft a strategic HR plan for the business around developing people. To do that, we need to be able to answer questions like:

  • Where are we now in terms of skills and competencies?
  • In terms of our business, where do we want to be in five years?
  • What are the people constraints around that?
  • How do we fill those gaps to achieve what we want to achieve?

We need to offer the enterprise system fact-based, decision-making reference points about how business development is going for senior management.

We need to be able to say, based on real information, how our people are engaging with this learning, and use reality as the basis for planning if they need to be encouraged to get to the next point, and so on.

Organisations that have that kind of innovative approach to people management and learning and development are the ones that will thrive. But we need to be able to document that, provide defensible business plans. We need to build tools that can let the head of HR go into the board meeting and say, ‘We need to grow the marketing team by 25% and acquire these specific, identified skills to enable us to achieve Goals 2 and 3 of John’s strategic vision (be that entering new markets or acquiring a greater share of the particular market in which we are currently operating).

“Without that 25% growth we can’t.”

Let’s get some real science into all this!

That would be a powerful, convincing speech.

But we need to get the systems in place to enable that HR leader to deliver it.

As we prepare for growth, I am asking you to ask yourself some hard questions:

  • Are you capturing enough data around learning?
  • If not, why not?
  • Is what you are expecting to happen happening? How do you know?
  • New joiners need to be doing what (and why) in their first 90 days?
  • What will happen if we don’t have enough skills in-house in area ‘x’? What are the costs of not training our people in topic ‘y’?
  • What are the specific benefits of training in ‘y’?

To go back to the beginning, remember what my wise chum said all those years ago:

‘If gets measured it gets done.’

This is not the time to test the truth of that remark… believe me, it is true!

Instead, it’s the time L&D got real – real enough for the CEO to really take notice this time.

Best of luck in getting measurements in – and let me know how you get on.

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