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Training & Learning

Did That Training Really Work? Measuring the Impact of L&D with Kevin M. Yates

Did that training really work?

This is a question many learning and development teams struggle to get to the bottom of. That's because measuring success is not always straightforward. 

Kevin M. Yates, an expert in determining the impact of training, has made it his mission to gather facts, evidence and data to answer this often challenging question. His work with global organizations across multiple industries makes him the go-to person to discuss all things concerning the effectiveness of learning programs, so it was great to delve into this topic further with him.

In this L&D podcast recap, Kevin and I talk about the transition that’s taking place in L&D today—from the growing expectation that L&D performance needs to be measurable and what that actually means, to the three criteria needed to make a meaningful contribution to business goals.

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Feedback sheets don't tell the full story–organizational goals do

L&D teams have traditionally used a set of standard metrics to measure the success of a training program, including feedback sheets, attendance and completion rates, and satisfaction scores. But as Kevin explains, while these metrics can be useful for refining training programs, they don’t actually determine whether someone learned anything from the course.  

Kevin goes on to explain the shift that is taking place in L&D today. “Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the need to measure training efficacy. The expectation is now, more than ever, that those who complete a training course will be able to use those skills in order to help the business win.” 

While this has always been the purpose of a training program, Kevin explains that paying attention to measurement and aligning training with the business hasn’t always been the key focus. With this in mind, Kevin explains, it's important for businesses to consider their organizational goals when designing L&D programs.

“I came to the realisation that I had no proof that the training programs I’d created actually had an impact,” says Kevin.  It was around this time that he met Jack and Patty Phillips of the RI Institute. They had a data-based approach to measuring the impact of training on business operations. With a renewed sense of purpose, Kevin switched gears and began focusing on how to put these types of measurements into practice.

But how can L&D teams adopt this kind of measurement mindset? Kevin had some tips.

I came to the realization that I had no proof that the training programs I’d created actually had an impact.

How can L&D teams adopt a measurement mindset?

Kevin states that while it can be difficult to measure L&D impact, it isn't impossible. Still, he says, this difficulty is part of the reason companies are slow to shift towards a more results-oriented mindset. One of the problems is that companies don't put enough thought into why they are building an L&D program in the first place.

Kevin stressed the importance of thinking about what your organizational goals are, and examining where your current gaps in performance are. “Many organizations jump right into creating a learning program, when doing so might not even be the most effective solution.” 

But by examining where the gaps are, Kevin explains, you'll discover whether an L&D program will help, and immediately have a way of aligning that program with the organizational needs of the business. 

For L&D teams, this is an important concept to grasp, and is ultimately where the shift in mindset begins. From a measurement perspective, basing your training programs around existing gaps in performance gives you the foundations needed to compare the before and after of the program.  

“Measuring the before and after is the most effective way to determine the impact the training has had on your business. It allows you to not only measure success, but to design a training program that will have the most impact on the organization,” says Kevin.

3 criteria for making a big impact on your organization

Once you have the purpose of your training program aligned with an organizational goal, along with a performance gap that you can track, you're well on the way to crafting an L&D program that will be more effective, and easier to measure. 

Kevin explains that with this in mind, it’s critical to consider these three criteria when implementing your program. Keep in mind that needs change and situations evolve, and L&D teams should always be re-evaluating these criteria:

  1. Is the training aligned to a business goal? Be sure to track your business goals, and identify your performance gaps as part of the initial research you’ll carry out when designing your training program. Align your program with these two metrics to make it easier to measure L&D success.
  2. Does the training program have high visibility? Any L&D program is only as effective as it is visible. You can have the greatest training in the world, but if nobody within the organization knows about it and takes advantage of it, it has no chance of making an impact on the business. So, it isn't enough to simply design a program around organisational goals. You need to make sure that it has a high enough visibility across the organization to make a real impact. 
  3. Is the training prgram expensive? The purpose of a training program is to address gaps in performance. While it might be worth quite a bit of expense to address those gaps, you need to ensure that the money you're spending on training isn't costing you more than it's giving in return.

It’s key to address these key criteria when designing an L&D program. Another important component? Getting stakeholders on board.

How to get key stakeholders on board with your measurement approach

Whether you're looking to create a new L&D program, or to overhaul an existing one, you'll need to bring stakeholders onboard. Kevin highlights that often, many L&D teams struggle to do this, but it doesn’t have to be an uphill battle. 

By identifying clear gaps in performance and demonstrating to stakeholders that you can concretely measure improvement, stakeholders will be more likely to see the benefit of a program and approve the project. 

Aligning the goals of a training program with the goals of the organization is, almost by default, aligning it with the goals of stakeholders within the organization,” Kevin adds.

 

Aligning the goals of a training program with the goals of the organization is, almost by default, aligning it with the goals of stakeholders within the organization.

The bottom line of demonstrating impact

Traditionally, businesses have struggled to align training programs with measurable business metrics, performance gaps, and organizational needs. But as Kevin makes clear, once these metrics are recognized as key performance indicators for training programs, L&D teams can confidently answer the question, ‘Did that training really work,’ with a resounding: yes! 

What’s more, L&D teams can demonstrate that the training programs they have shipped have had an impact on business performance, which is, after all, the primary purpose of learning and development programs.

Thanks again to Kevin for speaking to us about his successful experiences in measuring the impact of L&D. Keen to hear more about actionable and insightful L&D stories? Explore my session with Dawn Snyder on how to drive faster learning with the right performance approach.

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