Learning and development (L&D) and training programs have evolved to become a strategic part of organizations' overall talent strategy. And significant investments of time, money and energy naturally cause significantly high expectations when it comes to the return on investment (ROI) of training.
Where many companies fall short, according to the 2018 Learning Measurement Study by Brandon Hall Group (BHG), is in linking learning initiatives to performance outcomes.
The challenge for many organizations lies in simply not knowing what learning metrics they should measure and how they should do it. BHG found:
- Almost 30 percent of organizations report capturing just basic metrics, if any data at all
- Only 18 percent of companies believe they're effective or very effective at measuring informal learning
- Just 13 percent of companies report consistently using individual performance as a measurement of learning effectiveness
So while learning leaders know their L&D programs need to move the needle on performance, they're not actively measuring those outcomes. They don't know for certain whether their programs are effective. And that's a huge problem.
Bridging the gap: Connecting learning to performance
High-performing organizations (HiPOs) on the other hand, are leading the pack when it comes to measuring the impact of their L&D initiatives, and the evidence lies in their results: HiPOs report an increase in year-over-year key performance indicators (KPIs), including revenue, market penetration, employee engagement and retention, and customer satisfaction and retention.
So what are they doing right? We've identified three ways top-performing organizations link L&D to employee performance, and how your organization can do it too.
1. Review L&D goals on a quarterly basis
HiPOs review their L&D goals and compare them to corporate objectives on a quarterly basis, at a minimum.
Why is it important to consistently review the thinking driving your L&D programs?
Learning and training initiatives are only useful if they move the needle on performance. That includes individuals, teams and the organization. At the end of the day, the business needs to move forward. But what if there's a shift or disruption within your industry? What if regional or international regulations or compliance standards change? What if your company gets acquired or merges with a competitor?
These are just some examples of why learning teams need to stay aligned with business goals and needs - sometimes on short notice. That means they need to keep aware of both internal and external factors that could impact current and future programs, as well as staying agile in order to make any necessary changes, as needed.
How you can do this too
Make your L&D goals easily accessible to your team and key stakeholders. A great way to do this is by publishing them on your company intranet or digital workspace. Reach out to the key stakeholders whose teams or departments would be directly affected by any pivot in priorities. To make sure your goals still make sense, prioritize a goals review in your quarterly meeting with the executive leadership team. This is also a great opportunity to update all stakeholders about how your L&D initiatives are moving the business forward. If no changes need to be made, great! Stay the course, but communicate with your stakeholders regularly so that you can establish L&D as a well-known profit center within your organization.
2. Link L&D objectives to departmental goals
Top-performing organizations consistently link their L&D objectives to their organization's departmental goals.
Why is it important to make a connection between departmental goals and L&D program outcomes?
Corporate objectives outline the high-level achievements of the company within a given time frame and each department is responsible for its own contributions to helping the business meet its goals. That means each department has its own subsection of goals that really dive into the details of how they plan to accomplish that. This is where L&D programs can get hyper-specific when it comes to the training, learning, certifications or skills needed to help those individuals and teams hit their targets.
When learning becomes department-, team- and individual-specific, that's when you start to see major progress in moving the needle on performance. It's important to empower your people and help them grow their skills and, to do that, there needs to be alignment on a departmental level so that your people connect to business performance in everything they do.
How you can do this too
Break down those departmental siloes and start communicating! Start by talking to managers and team leaders to learn about their desired performance outcomes. Encourage managers to create a culture of feedback and establish metrics you can use to determine whether your learning initiatives are making a positive impact on individual, team and departmental performance.
3. Use a cascading set of goals linking corporate and L&D objectives
HiPOs don't simply link corporate goals to departmental goals - they go further by using a cascading set of goals that link corporate goals to L&D objectives.
Why is it important to use a cascading set of goals to link L&D objectives with corporate targets?
When you think about cascading goals, you know that the high-level, overarching business goals have a direct impact on the smaller components of the company. This includes divisional or regional goals, departmental goals (of course) and then get granular by aligning team goals and individual goals to the bigger, prioritized outcome.
Training and L&D must move the needle on performance goals at each level of the organization in order to align with corporate objectives. Training and skill-development opportunities need to be modern, impactful and delivered in the moment of need. This approach to L&D helps to create more value, growth and success for your company.
How you can do this too
A great way to get started is to ensure you're nurturing an L&D culture within your organization in order to develop, engage and inspire your people. No matter what your organization does, what you sell or where it's located, the success of your business starts with your people. So start with the end in mind: challenge your people to set at least one L&D goal per quarter and ensure they understand how they can apply the new skill or knowledge to their job, so they can see how their development contributes to performance outcomes. Don't forget to track your people's and team's progress along the way!
Discover the link between learning and performance
Ready to learn more about what learning strategies set HiPOs apart from their competitors? Join David Wentworth, senior learning analyst at BHG, and me at our upcoming webinar, The Learning and Performance Link: Making the Connection on October 23.
Discover how your organization can make the connection between learning initiatives and performance outcomes to create more value in - and for - your business.