Measuring the impact of learning and development programmes is about so much more than the traditional ‘ROI’. Here are some other ways L&D professionals can prove their worth.
We’re at a pivotal moment in UK history. In the face of political uncertainty, a rapidly evolving workplace, and trends like automation and artificial intelligence transforming how we live, any decisions made today could shape the course of the country, its businesses and its workforce for decades to come.
It is imperative that we develop as individuals, organisations and economies to keep up with the pace of change.
More than ever before, we need to invest in quality learning and development programmes to train, upskill and reskill our talent pool, so that we can develop the capabilities that society needs most.
Making L&D an integral part of business strategy
In more challenging economic times, like the ones we currently face, budget cuts are sometimes necessary, and teams across organisations need to fight for investment.
Learning and development is no exception, and L&D leaders must put together a compelling case that undeniably demonstrates the value in their training programmes and initiatives.
The only way to do this is to show the importance of learning and development to the whole business.
By producing a business case that clearly outlines the impact L&D has on those who undertake it, L&D leaders can shift the perception of development as something that is an add-on to a critical feature of organisational strategy.
So how can we get the evidence to create this shift in mindset?
There’s method in measurement
The problem is that it’s hard to know where to start. In fact, a recent survey found that more than a quarter (28%) of HR and development professionals reported 'not knowing how to get started' when it came to measuring the impact of learning and training.
This isn’t that surprising. L&D is not always a tangible process that can be easily qualified.
Having an outstanding training and development programme can lead to clear business benefits, such as improvements in customer satisfaction, staff skill levels, productivity, recruitment and retention.
This doesn’t mean that its measurement has to be a daunting task, however. The most valuable place to start is by working out what impact you want any training programme to have before it is implemented.
It sounds deceptively simple, but having a clear sense of the intended aims and outcomes of the activity before it is undertaken is vital. Once this have been figured out, the measurement itself becomes exponentially easier.
Too often we see organisations rush into training without fully understanding the desired outcome.
L&D professionals must challenge themselves to answer the question of why this activity is being undertaken, before it gets started.
Not only will this make it far easier to create measurable goals, but the programme can be shaped right from the start to achieve specific results, which can only enhance the quality of any training and development.
Championing L&D and its measurement
At the City & Guilds Group we are longstanding champions of L&D and, to help celebrate the innovation and impact being seen in this area, we created the annual Princess Royal Training Awards (PRTAs).
Now in its fourth year, the awards are given to UK employers who can prove that their outstanding training and development programmes have resulted in exceptional commercial benefits for their business.
If anyone can make the link between the business case and training activity, it’s the PRTA entrants.
To understand more about how businesses can identify whether a training programme is impactful, we analysed the methods applied by some of the remarkable previous recipients of the awards.
Their ingenuity in finding opportunities to capture results is inspirational and opened our eyes to the myriad of ways in which L&D can measure impact – well beyond the traditional ‘ROI’.
The most powerful metrics
One thing that rapidly became clear through this research was that the measurement of L&D does not need to be complex.
Over half (56%) of our sampled applicants said they obtain staff feedback through surveys, focus groups and meetings as a common way of measuring the impact of their training programmes.
Using external accreditation, awards, business profitability and levels of staff retention as benchmarks to measure against were also listed as popular methods of assessing impact.
Another powerful metric revealed by our research was that having an outstanding training and development programme can lead to clear business benefits, such as improvements in customer satisfaction, staff skill levels, productivity, recruitment and retention.
We need to help businesses recognise the value that learning and development can have, and what should be prioritised.
All these measures should be of interest to financial decision makers in any organisation.
Competency frameworks, skills matrices and deep-dive evaluations all have an important role to play – but directly linking activity back to the overall business strategy will prevent L&D from being siloed.
L&D now and for the future
L&D has a pivotal role to play in training and upskilling the UK’s workforce – and is vital for our future.
Despite this, recent City & Guilds Group research found that a third of UK workers did not receive any workplace training last year. This is shockingly high, especially when skills gaps are widening across industries up and down the UK.
Overcoming some of the barriers to upskilling cited by employees across the UK is the next step – whether that’s lack of time, resource, or understanding the skills that will be valuable in years to come.
We also need to help businesses recognise the value that learning and development can have, and what should be prioritised.
This won’t happen overnight - but if we are better able to measure the impact of training programmes, showing once and for all the multitude of business benefits they can bring to individuals and organisations, it will be far easier to make the case for L&D as a force to drive success.
Interested in this topic? Read Performance management: should we stop trying to measure the ROI of training and development?
About Chris Jones
Chris Jones is Group Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group. The Group – which includes City & Guilds, ILM, Kineo, The Oxford Group, Digitalme, e3Learning and Gen2– exists to help people, organisations and economies develop their skills for growth, and sets the standards for corporate learning, on-the-job development and skills recognition.
Chris plays a prominent role in driving the national and international skills agenda – something he has personal experience of as he followed the vocational education path himself. He is a member of the Business in the Community Employment and Skills Leadership team and Chairman at the Activate Learning Group.
Before joining the City & Guilds Group, Chris held several senior management positions in Pearson and Reed Elsevier.