Return on Learning Metrics

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“What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done” – so goes the saying!

Well, if you are measuring something, but not necessarily all the right things, your end result could still not be right or you are relying on the wrong data to make your case.

“Measuring Learning” has been plagued by this issue since decades. Starting with RoI measurement that captured cost avoidance by drawing comparisons to “classroom training,” measurement went on to compare “cost and time saving with eLearning compared to traditional methods.” And as for traditional methods of learning: well, they rarely, if ever, got measured! In this whole maze of RoI calculation, one critical component of measurement got forgotten – the individual (who was learning) and how that learning was influencing business outcomes favorably.

return of learning metrics

What is very evident now is that measuring learning effectiveness, connected to business outcomes, generates overwhelming support from all stakeholders. When return on learning (RoL) metrics include evidence of positive impact on business outcomes, Learning &Development, as a function, moves to becoming a strategic business enabler! Lines of businesses make budgets available for learning intervention. And, L&D budgets do not become the first on the chopping block during difficult times!

There is also this realization now that learning is not linear. In fact, more organizations now prefer or opt for modular asymmetric learning methods. This is because resource optimization, and this includes human talent, has become a key driver to business success. So there is a greater emphasis on “rapid learning transference to the job.” Unlike traditional learning methods, learners’ engagement no longer needs to be “forced” or dependent on their ability to complete a pre-defined and a pre-requisite course required for their skill development or enhancement as the case may be.

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A true learning environment should bring timeliness and functional ease of learning to the fore. This environment should not just capture transactional learning through a traditional course but should be able to capture all interventions. After all, knowledge can be obtained through a YouTube video or a simple document as much as it can be through a course. This kind of learning enablement facilitates the application of informal or unstructured learning leading to quicker application of that learning, on the job. Besides, it also eases the pressure of the learner as the laborious and completion-kind-of-course process is overlooked. Apart from increasing the confidence levels of the learner, a true learning environment, which incorporates and measures all interventions, is also able to overcome the limitations of a traditional learning management system (LMS).

Let’s now consider the case of an employee, who does not have spreadsheet skills. The individual finds himself in a situation that requires an immediate and meaningful interpretation of data or an easier way to manipulate the data. The challenge is manifold in this case. Time, knowledge, productivity, and business impact are immediate concerns. Somehow, he chances upon the fact that using the “concatenate”* function will solve this dilemma that he finds himself in. But, you will agree that a typical LMS approach will mean that the employee has to complete the basic course levels before he even gets to the advanced levels!

Why would an employee, instead of addressing his specific need, opt to invest many hours of learning and completing the basic course in order to “harvest” the feature that he is seeking, for immediate application?

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A specific need like this needs an immediate solution. And it needs to be a quick blurb or chunk-sized learning. Moreover, this learning doesn’t have to be achieved only through an “eLearning course.” It could be a video that the employee found on YouTube or a collaborative interaction with a colleague! And with the depth of data that analytics engines can capture these days, these learning interventions and their impact on business outcome can also be measured.

That is the advantage a truly evolved learning framework, which is integrated to business processes, offers. To reiterate, this allows the learner to bypass the rigid or formal architecture of the traditional LMS. Learners in such a traditional LMS environment have to go through the rigorous process of pouring over tons and tons of data to gain the ease and “comfort” of understanding a subject. Rather, it should be about addressing the individual needs of the learner at the moment they want help, in a manner they need it leading to immediate transference of that acquired knowledge to their jobs. And furthermore, all of this captured in a format that can highlight impact of learning on business outcomes, not just to L&D teams but to the line of business manager!

*And in case you are curious to test out the “concatenate” function, click here to find out!

This article is contributed by Rajith Nair, Senior Director UK & EMEA, Origin Learning


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