Learning analytics: ten questions L&D detectives must ask to assess the impact of learning
The key to an effective learning solution is making sure it aligns with your business goals and objectives. Before a decision is made to embark on this journey, L&D professionals need to agree what the desired impact will be and how this will be measured.
L&D detective work can be complicated and tricky, with a lot of twists and turns. Discovering facts and evidence on the impact of training and learning is a complex mystery to solve. What makes impact investigations difficult is not having the facts about expectations of what the impact will be before training and learning solutions are designed and launched. Here are ten questions L&D detectives must ask for solving impact mysteries.
1. What is the business goal?
This is the most overlooked fact when it comes to impact. Training and learning is often designed without context for what the business is trying to achieve, not as a training goal, i.e. design five new courses and train 1,000 people by end of Q2, but rather, the business goal, i.e. 15% growth by expansion in new markets. Getting the facts about business goals is always the first question to ask in an impact investigation and connects training and learning with business priorities.
2. What is the situation or condition?
Is there a growth opportunity? Is there a need to improve, reduce, or sustain something? Do market conditions require a specific business response? These are examples of situations and conditions that drive business goals. The answer to the question about situation or condition gives perspective for how training and learning can potentially impact the business goal.
3. What are the performance expectations?
This is the second most overlooked fact with regards to impact. There’s confusion about the difference between learning objectives and performance expectations. Performance expectations are not what people need to learn, know, or understand. Performance expectations are the outward expression of how capability shows up in behavior and actions. The intention for asking this question is collecting facts about specific performance requirements for achieving the business goal.
4. What is the required change in performance?
What is the difference between where performance is and where it needs to be to achieve the business goal? What evidence supports a need for performance improvement or new capability? The answer to the question about required performance change is the foundation for evaluating the effect of learning. It is the benchmark for measuring learning’s influence on performance.
5. Who are the people?
Whose performance is needed to achieve the business goal? Are there specific divisions or teams? Uncovering facts about people or groups who are expected to use their performance to achieve business goals will ensure that the right solution is targeted to the right people and teams.
6. Who are the key players?
Achieving business goals is a team sport. Training and learning will never be the only player on the team that helps the business win. The answer to the question about key players unveils all contributors, for example, marketing, operations, product development, recruitment, technology, etc., all of whom play a role in achieving the business goal.
7. What are the measures?
What are the key performance indicators that measure movement towards the goal? Are there metrics that show correlation or causation between business performance and people performance? Who owns the data? The answer to the question about measures is the foundation for facts, evidence, and data that show impact and results.
8. What are the performance influences?
Just as there is more than one player on the team for achieving a business goal, there are also multiple influences that impact performance. Yes, training and learning has potential for activating performance and there are other activators as well. Collecting facts about all the influences that impact performance, i.e., rewards and recognition, motivation, managers, tools, support, manager, natural capability, etc., ensures there are fair and realistic expectations for the impact of training and learning.
9. What are the threats?
Is there something that can prevent the business from achieving the goal? What may stop people from using their performance in a way that helps them achieve business goals? Identifying threats to business performance and people performance informs decisions for risk mitigation.
10. What is the impact measurement agreement?
The information you get from answering questions one to nine will help you decide when training and learning is a solution that will impact your business goals and performance and when it is not. Question 10 is one that you will be able to answer after it’s been agreed that training and learning is a key player in achieving the business goal and that it is something that will influence performance.
It’s absolutely critical that there is an agreement between the L&D team and the other business partners before the training and learning solution is launched about how it will be measured. This is absolutely critical for collecting facts, evidence and data to help you assess the impact.
Fulfilling the highest purpose
Did you notice that none of the impact investigation questions were about training? Did you see how the focus is on business goals and performance requirements to achieve those goals? Training and learning fulfill the highest purpose when there’s measurable impact on behavior, performance, actions, and business goals. The impact investigation questions are focused on the fulfillment of purpose.
Not having facts about impact before the training or learning solution is designed and launched makes solving impact mysteries difficult. Proactively uncovering impact facts serves two purposes:
- It informs decisions about how to measure impact.
- It will help you to purposefully build training and learning solutions with measurable impact.
So, before you begin any learning intervention, remember to ask these ten questions and be the L&D detective your business needs.
Interested in this topic? Read Having learning impact, not just showing it.
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Kevin is a Learning & Development detective and just like Sherlock Holmes, he solves mysteries. The mystery he solves is, "What is the impact of learning?". He investigates efficiency, effectiveness, and outcomes. He looks for facts, clues, evidence, and data for learning's impact on behavior, performance, and actions.