measuring the business impact of learning 2020 abstract

LEO Learning and Watershed’s measuring the business impact of learning report is now available to download. This annual survey (from our sister companies within the Learning Technologies Group) measures the learning industry’s progress towards learning that is measured against business impact. With organizations having difficulty moving beyond basic measurement, we take a look at a number of important insights for Gomo customers.

Since 2017, more than 1,300 L&D professionals have been surveyed on their approach to learning measurement in the ‘measuring the business impact of learning’ report. This year’s report looks at three key issues. L&D’s struggle to analyze data; L&D’s difficulty securing stakeholder buy-in for measurement projects; and the barriers experienced inside and outside an organization when trying to get access to data.

Gavin Beddow, Gomo’s Managing Director, reckons one statistic is particularly revealing: “It’s a shame that 53% of L&D departments remain subject to either no measurement, or only basic measurement. With standards like xAPI now available, organizations should be reporting on so much more than content utilization or learner satisfaction. It’s not just a matter of making sure you’re using an xAPI-enabled tool like Gomo, either. The report is quite clear that the industry needs to make boardrooms better aware of what is possible with better measurement.”

While the report finds that the corporate world has proven consistent in its desire to measure the impact of its L&D investment, there has sometimes been a lack of real-world examples to back up these intentions. Therefore, the report looks at some examples of organizations implementing solutions, to accompany the issues it highlights.

Here’s a taster of the full analysis:

Problem #1: Big Data Has a Business-Wide Impact, but L&D Is Having Difficulty Using It

Though 91% agree or strongly agree that big data has a significant impact on their organization, L&D departments are struggling to exploit these large and diverse datasets. 15% of L&D departments say they don’t know where to start. Another 14% say that measuring the impact of learning is simply too difficult (up from 5% in 2019). Along with the 14% who flag ‘no access to data’ (explored further in problem #3), the report suggests that these increases are concerning.

The Solution

Thankfully, there is a simple solution: starting small. Ideally, this involves mapping out your learning ecosystem and determining how best to measure individual business KPIs with what you already have.

The report looks at an interesting example of proof-of-concept learning from The Behr Paint Company. By using an xAPI-enabled training and sales enablement app, they demonstrate how it’s possible to measure KPI-driving behavior—even on a small budget (for a quick primer on xAPI, read our blog post on what xAPI can do for you).

Problem #2: L&D Knows It Must Measure, But It Needs to Secure Buy-In

The key takeaway from 2019’s report was that executives were increasing pressure on their L&D departments to measure the impact of their learning projects. It was expected that we would see this continue to rise—instead, the number of respondents reporting executive pressure fell from 67% to 63%. Meanwhile, 53% of L&D departments are either not measured or are only subject to basic measurements (such as content utilization or learner satisfaction).

The report goes on to suggest that leadership doesn’t yet understand what is possible with better measurement types (return on investment, organizational impact, job performance improvement). This leaves L&D exposed: if measurement isn’t in demand, is it being funded?

The Solution

The report’s solution: L&D professionals should continue to work to put measuring the business impact of learning back on the boardroom agenda. This requires a multi-pronged approach. The rest of the business typically needs to be shown what impact measurement actually looks like, and L&D needs to demonstrate a long-term strategy for measurement.

Further to this, 10 key components for a strategy that secures buy-in are suggested—covering collaborative ownership, everything you need to map and document, piloting, and measurement. This list is in-part inspired Visa’s Visa University initiative, which shows how a once compliance-driven learning environment can be transformed into a highly-successful long-term and learner-driven strategy.

Problem #3: Data is Valuable But Elusive

From the problem of “business stakeholders [who] don’t want to provide answers” to the challenges of systems that “rely on programmers to create reports from the LMS”, many respondents experience data access issues. Furthermore, for the last four years, ‘no access to the data’ has remained a top-three answer to the question “what is the biggest challenge of measuring the impact of learning in your organization?’

The Solution

The report goes on to state that the persistent sense of frustration around data access needs to be challenged. It suggests securing advocates, talking to vendors, and creating demos that demonstrate to these groups what is expected and what can be achieved.

There is additionally a discussion on how to communicate and align on a vision, with reference to Caterpillar’s vendor vetting process. By having specific data format requirements, the machinery giant was able to standardize its customer experience across its huge global dealer network. A similar approach could work for your organization.

Read the Full Results and Analysis

The report, including full results and extended commentary from Piers Lea, Chief Strategy Officer at LEO Learning and Tim Dickinson, Director of Strategy at Watershed, is available now. Click here to get your copy.

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