Years ago as a student at Loughborough University I got to know a talented athlete who would frequently run rings around others in training, but never seemed to hit the heights when it mattered on the track. The reason soon became clear. His training schedules were completely random and none of his performances were logged. He refused to let coaches impose any level of discipline, believing it would compromise his natural gifts, and while he gave the occasional decent performance in a race he could never be sure what had prompted it.
I was reminded of this athlete and his unfulfilled talent at this week’s World of Learning event at the NEC. Exhibitors offered fascinating insights on programme development, empowerment of learners and achieving a smart balance between learning modes, but one theme stood out.
If we don’t measure what works, how can we repeat it and build on it? If we don’t analyse the return, how can we sensibly invest?
Speaking for CDSM, Steve Finch made the most persuasive case for defining and measuring ROI as applied to learning and development. Over two thirds of companies currently have no mechanism in place for this measurement. They may measure cost and they may measure learner feedback in some form, but when it comes to positive behavioural change and lasting impact on the business, they’re in the dark.
The presentation didn’t just highlight the problems, it pointed towards practical solutions. By applying the Kirkpatrick-Phillips learning model we can look beyond rudimentary feedback and evaluate whether knowledge has been imparted, behaviour has been changed and performance has been measurably improved.
And – crucially – we can establish whether any given method of training has yielded a positive return on investment.
If that makes the evaluation process sound easy, most of us realise it isn’t. It requires diligence and the will to dive deep into a client’s business needs. Before we take a client’s money and start applying solutions, we must help them define their problems. And the satisfaction of delivering measurable benefits is a very fitting reward.
CDSM’s post-presentation Q&A with clients Honda and Mitsubishi reinforced the point that learning and development can only work as a partnership, and these automotive giants are clearly benefiting from a strategy that holds trainers and trainees accountable for what’s passed on, what’s implemented and what benefits accrue. The message from CDSM and from many other providers at the NEC this week was clear; when we challenge ourselves to identify core issues, address them and measure the results, we win.
We win the engagement of our learners.
We win the trust of our clients.