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Post by Niamh Walsh, Learnovate
At a workshop on the most pressing challenges for Learning and Development professionals, the issue of most concern was the need for corporate Learning and Development (L&D) to show business value to senior leadership and the participants’ current lack of insight into how to achieve this goal.
Organisations need people who can continually adapt and learn in rapidly changing workplace environments. As talent development becomes key to future survival, organisations are paying close attention to the impact of learning and development activities on business outcomes. Senior leadership teams expect to demonstrate business value.
We provide some tips below on how L&D can show its contribution to achieving strategic goals and delivering business value. For our full report ‘How to Demonstrate the Business Value of Learning’ by Peter Gillis, Learnovate, scroll down and complete the form.
Gauge the appetite for engaging with L&D across departments and identify champions, partners, or sections within the organisation that wants to work with L&D to solve a problem.
Don’t try to change everything at once. Identify a learning intervention linked to a business target that is easy to work with and treat it as a pilot to test a new process for showing business value.
Establish the exact expectations of senior management in advance and get their buy-in from the start. Build close relationships with Finance and HR to identify desired business outcomes and frame what success looks like.
Ensure you understand the issues at a root-cause level. Use the 5 Whys technique to investigate the cause of the problem you plan to tackle. You need to be sure that the problem is one that L&D is suited to solving.
Generate a solid, specific evaluation plan based on facts and figures and aligned with a business challenge. You can build on this plan to create templates and embed processes to measure business value and behavioural change on every project.
Use language that resonates with the senior leadership team and key stakeholders. For Finance, Commercial and the CEO, speak in numbers to show concrete evidence of business impact.
Don’t be afraid to be accountable. Start with a pilot, experiment, measure and re-iterate. If you don’t achieve the goal, you learn what does not work and modify the plan until you achieve success.
Introduce a discovery phase to explore what data you can use to show the impact of the problem you plan to address. Figure out your baseline data before you start and decide how you will collect data during the intervention. Identify and monitor a control group of those who will not receive training to compare with at the end of the project. You want to use credible data sources and be conservative in your calculations to establish the validity of your evaluations.
You may require a specialist skillset to access, gather and analyse the data you need to provide evidence of impact. Get help from the financial and commercial departments and any other departments that collect data you need. Partnering with key departments will build trust and add credibility to your evaluations.
Showing the Business Value of Learning Workshop
Contributors pictured at the workshop hosted by Learnovate in Trinity College Dublin in partnership with the IITD.
In addition to evaluating learning outcomes and learner engagement, you should calculate potential cost reductions, time saved and any improvements in efficiency or effectiveness that you can track. This should also include shorter course durations or time saved in L&D design and development. Work with HR and Finance to identify a monetary cost per employee and convert improvements from your learning intervention into capacity increases, cost savings or revenue growth.
Traditional metrics focus on satisfaction and performance but the leadership team and stakeholders are more interested in metrics that demonstrate business value metrics. If a business goal is achieved and your intervention was part of a wider team effort, you should claim credit for your part in achieving the metric. It is difficult to isolate a single cause of success – it is reasonable to report that your intervention is correlated with achieving business goals. You do not need to claim your intervention alone caused the organisation to achieve the goal. In this way, you build trust with your partners in HR and Finance and communicate the value of the L&D department.
Celebrate and share positive outcomes with the entire organisation. Use the craft of storytelling to describe the context, the challenges people faced and how your intervention helped overcome the problems. Present your data with graphics to tell a visual story that makes the positive impacts of your learning intervention stand out.
Earn future buy in and encourage engagement with other units of the business by generating valuable case studies. The unit you worked with to achieve business outcomes will appreciate that you are also highlighting their efforts and success.
Be realistic! It takes time, coaching and support to change behaviour for transformative business impact.