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How to Measure L&D Success: Don’t Do That, Do This

Is your Learning and Development team missing out on the opportunity to understand the impact of learning? 

If you’re not embracing the use of data then the answer is Yes.

Let’s talk about data. It’s been the big buzzword in the world of Learning and Development these last few years and for good reason.

In my eyes data is king, it’s my best friend and gives me everything I need and much more – why you ask?

Well, data can tell me a story, it can tell me how many times you interact with a platform, which articles you read, how many times you visit and how long you stay – sound’s a bit creepy, right?

But also, as I hope to reveal to you, it’s very a powerful insight tool.

In order for us to understand how a community of people behave and what resonates with them, we need to know their habits, we need to know the trends of their behaviour so that we can best position our product to them.

Just look at Amazon as an example.

They’re a king in this arena with their customer analytics, they know everything about us. The analytics teams at Amazon know what I like to buy, how often I make a purchase and even the most popular minute of the day I’ll make a purchase.

That kind of insight is powerful in allowing them to promote products to me that have a high chance of a conversion to purchase.

This should be no different for us in the L&D world when we share/promote (and yes, we do promote it) our content to people.

Learn more about real-world examples of marketing tactics applied in L&D

How does this all relate to learning and development?

Historically HR and L&D departments have been slow to adapt to new technologies and methods to measure engagement.

You’re more than likely in a business right now where you’re marketing, finance and technology teams are using data analytics to guide their impact.

They’re using insights to build a picture of what their customer wants – so why aren’t you?

Whether you recognise it or not. Learning and development teams exist to serve an audience by building products to support and accelerate performance.

In order to succeed, we need to know our customers.

As L&D professionals, the customers are everyone in the workforce. For us to engage people with our content, we need to understand who they are.

How many times have you released new L&D content only to be met with feedback that less than 10% of your audience saw or heard of its existence? It stings, right?

Yet, with the right data and setting the right metrics, you can understand how best to engage your audience so they actually see the amazing content you’ve created. 

The learning content marketing fail

Now we’ve set the context, let’s get to the good stuff – what can data do for your L&D function?

Well, it can do anything you want it to.

We have hundreds of metrics available to measure. We need to define your basic needs and adopt a data analysis strategy that will give you the data that shows how effective your learning campaigns, products and solutions perform with your target audiences.

If you have no historical data right now, your first move might be to conduct a simple survey and focus groups to collate some basic data on your audience.

You’ll also want to explore any analytics features that your current learning and HR technology offers. Most platforms offer some form of analytics features these days, some better than others of course.

Using data doesn’t need to be like a Picasso canvas of upskilling your data skills. Any organization has straightforward touch points, so the data can come from many different arenas

Here’s my 4-step approach to getting savvy with data to measure your L&D success ⬇️

1. Use what you’ve already got

As mentioned, you will have tools at your disposal right now.

For example, your company might do regular employee surveys across the organisation.

There will likely be some great touchpoints to understand the cultural impact of learning and development, growth opportunities, and building rewarding careers through these surveys.

They could be simple things like do people have access to the tools and the knowledge resources that help them deliver in their day-to-day, but also help them build a future fit career.

Very simple data can come from anywhere.

You can do that yourself as an L&D team. I used to do that for a large global organisation where I ran a learning survey every two to three months to get feedback on the things we were building, and delivering, and the money that we were investing.

This proved incredibly useful in showcasing performance and impact with senior leadership. Money always talks my friends.

2. Measure impact on performance

Return on investment is the feedback people provide on the impact you made. You can connect data with what roles these people are doing. 

For example, in sales, if you invest $250,000 in your sales team in half year one, what was the output performance of that sales team in half year two?

Can you make a correlation between particular skills that were used to achieve those results? And what happened when you took them through some interventions?

You can use the feedback mechanisms from employee surveys, but also the binary points: you spent this amount, and this is the performance that came out of the team.

How can you connect that back through surveys and performance reviews?

3. Move beyond vanity metrics

Performance reviews are a great time to track the output of understanding the implementation of learning products and how that helped people improve how they do their jobs.

You don’t want to track what I call vanity metrics.

Which is how many people turned up to my course or how many said they loved me at this course for a day. These are absolutely useless!

What you want to do is get to the crux of what people are doing in the 12 weeks after the learning experience and what they are talking about afterwards.

How you measure the impact of those interventions is crucial. Otherwise, you can consider the program a failure.

For example, let’s say you spent $30,000 on an intervention where people say it was great to get a day out of the office, but in the end, the money did not have the desired outcome because it didn’t impact performance.

So, it was a waste of both time and money.

4. Be conversational, not transactional

Now I’ve mentioned surveys quite a bit. And you will have plenty of opportunities to gather data through surveys.

But it’s crucial not to survey people to death–we all get enough of that in our emails.

For me, it comes down to having that open conversation and saying, ‘Look, we’re building all these solutions. We’re putting these things in place to help us understand–but are we changing stuff here? Are we improving lives?’ Then it really helps to share the data. 

And I find that authentically, most people are willing to do that, and you’d be surprised by the results. What I’ve always found is people don’t want the fluffy stuff. But you only get that when you scratch beneath the surface.

Putting this into practice

I can imagine you might be reading this and thinking ‘this feels really aspirational, but how do I make this work with my organisation?’

And this is the right question to ask, so let’s cover this now.

My approach has always been to embrace co-creation with business leaders and stakeholders. This means exactly what it says on the tin. Spending time to build a partnership where both parties design a product or solution.

I’ve written a more in-depth piece on just how you can bring this into your work here. I also cover the summary of what this means in the video below.

Check out my interview with 360 Learning where I talk more on this topic

This is a basic introduction to why you should be using data in your learning and development setup.

It influences everything from idea generation to product development to implementation. It cannot be underrated and it can’t be ignored.

If used correctly, it will most certainly help your produce better products and solutions at pace and solve key user problems.

Think how powerful it would be to walk into your next meeting and tell a story through data about the impact of your learning content and what it’s doing for the capability of your people.

Use data and insight to make an impact, and create a new culture of learning through better understanding of your audience.

Before you go… 👋

If you like my writing and think “Hey, I’d like to hear more of what this guy has to say” then you’re in luck.

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