The Real Business of Learning Evaluation

Thank you to Con Sotidis (@LearnKotch) and #OzLearn for inviting me to be part of their upcoming Nov 10, 2015 (8pm AEDT) Twitter Chat. I wish my L&D colleagues ‘down unda’ learn as much from my perspective as I expect to discover from them.

boss-hidingBusiness leaders place Learning practitioners under tremendous pressure to demonstrate that their learning efforts are worth the budget they allocate. This is probably one of the biggest challenges facing those involved with any aspect of workplace learning.

There are many reasons why learning practitioners are unable to connect their efforts with actual workplace applications. One that stands out is that learning practitioners focus on the “learning” rather than on how learning impacts business performance.

Many learning practitioners remain under the impression that if proper learning takes place then everything else will take care of itself. Intuitively this makes some sense but this causal relationship is too weak to be effective. Following this logic is similar to saying that if you eat ice cream you’ll be cold; possibly but many other reasons also apply.

Claiming learning is effective is like saying that if you eat ice cream you’ll be cold; possibly but many other reasons also apply.

Those involved with learning discover early to integrate and apply Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation. Yes, your organization explicitly hires learning practitioners for their expertise with level 1 (develop effective learning) and level 2 (learning retention). No business leader expects anything different. What they expect, however, is that learning practitioners ensure that level 1 and 2 contribute to improving job performance (level 3) leading to business improvement (level 4).

And here lays every learning practitioner’s challenge…to get employees learning the right skills and, ultimately, applying these skills to the job. Some propose what appears as relevant solutions to this dilemma including measuring learning’s “return on investment” (training ROI), how well learning meets business expectations (ROE), and ‘New World” Kirkpatrick (apparently ‘old and lousy” Kirkpatrick is not good enough).

Every learning practitioner’s challenge…get employees learning the right skills and, ultimately, applying these skills to the job.

Again, the shortsightedness of these methodologies is just like the “ice cream making you cold” example. The causal relationship is too weak to prove and often inappropriate or irrelevant. These solutions fall short to actually measure and evaluate how well learning contributes to on-the-job effectiveness and to achieve business objectives.

With a growing need for innovation, creativity, and managing continuous market changes, business leaders are under tremendous pressure to foster a knowledge-driven business environment. Leaders are increasingly depending on organizational knowledge to develop strategic and business advantages to maintain relevance, let alone survival, within their market space.

Business leaders are under tremendous pressure to foster a knowledge-driven business environment.

Rather than viewing workplace learning as secondary, your leaders have it at the top of their to-do list. Furthermore, although this is a learning practitioners dream, it also comes at a price…the need for accountability. So, what should learning practitioners do? How can they prove that their learning efforts actually improve employee and business performance? Is there anything currently available that works?

Let’s discuss these and other related questions to measuring and evaluating workplace learning impact at our next online gathering on Twitter of #OzLearn, Tuesday, November 10th at 8:00pm AEDT. Prepare to discuss and challenge. We look forward to seeing you!

Hey #OzLearn peeps (and anyone reading), checkout my video dedicated to the upcoming #OzLearn chat.

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  1. The Next OzLearn Tweet Chat is on 10/11/15 | Learn. Show. Repeat.

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