Has it worked? Measuring impact
“More than 95 percent of Chief Learning Officers feel it is critical to demonstrate the impact and value of training. However, less than 5 percent are confident in their ability to do so.”
When I read this insight from NetCom Learning, it grabbed my attention … and then I thought about it some more and started to relate to it. I’ve worked in L&D for over 20 years and the ability to gather real, impactful data has always been a challenge.
Sure, we can use post-course surveys to find out what learners thought, but do they provide any real depth into the impact of a learning solution? With so much time and money invested in workplace learning, it’s crucial that we can measure the real-world effect it has on organizational performance.
So how do we get impact data and what is it anyway?
When you think about impact, there are a lot of layers. And, just like an onion, it can make you tearful thinking about how you can measure it.
The learning designer will have their view, as will the learner, as will the learner’s manager, and their manager, and so on. So, which one is right? Are they all relevant?
For me, the measure we really care about is based on the original learning need. When you fully understand the root cause of the problem you are trying to solve, then it becomes clear what your true measure of impact is going to be.
Want to learn more about measuring impact? Listen to our podcast!
In a recent episode of The Mind Tools L&D Podcast, Gemma discusses with teammates Claire, Sean and Tracey, about measuring impact.
Don't have time to listen to the podcast right now? Continue reading our article below.
Know the problem, measure the impact
So how do you get to the root cause of your problem, define your metrics, and then measure your progress?
Here are some great questions to get you there:
What problem are we trying to solve? Be specific, make sure it is a problem!
How do we know that this is a problem? Go out there and speak to end users, subject matter experts, managers etc.
What is causing the problem? Identify what the gap is in knowledge, skill, environment etc. Our resource on the 5 Whys can help you with this. 
What would be the consequence of doing nothing? This question can help define the problem.
What would success look like? This is the reverse of your problem statement. If the problem were solved, how would you know? To truly measure impact, you should be able to tell when progress has been made towards this goal.
Things to be aware of
Measuring the impact of learning is hard. Internal changes and external events all affect how people behave at work, and your learning intervention could be undermined by a policy shift that seems to come out of nowhere.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
So many learning interventions I’ve seen have no clearly defined problem, and no one involved could describe what success looks like. Without these, how can we tell what impact we’ve had?
So, let’s take a different approach, and start with impact measurement in mind.
Then, at the end, we should only consider our learning event complete once we have measured our performance and factored that into whatever comes next.
By putting the above into practice, you are more likely to increase confidence in the impact data that Chief Learning Officers rate as critical!
Want to find out more about how measurement drives the world of work and beyond? Read Simon Bell’s blog.
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