“Why are we creating this course?”
Most L&D professionals have probably asked themselves this before—whether you’re an instructional designer or a learning leader. The answer, of course, should be, “To achieve a business goal.” After all, that’s why we, in organizational learning, do what we do.
Too often though, instructional designers don’t do enough to tie training to a business goal, and recent Brandon Hall research confirms that aligning training to business goals is still a major issue.
In this interview, Jay Kasdan (Project/Account Manager for Fredrickson Learning) argues that learning measurement will help you meet your business goal if you follow the right path: identify what the business goal is; identify what processes, tasks, and skills will help you get there; and, finally, develop a way to make sure (through measurement) those processes, tasks, and skills are getting done. If you follow this path, not only are you more likely to meet your business goal, you’ll be able to prove your training was successful.
A few things about Jay: He is known for his expertise in learning measurement, and often presents at leading companies in the Twin Cities. In 2013, he and Fredrickson’s client were the winners of a Brandon Hall Silver Award for “Best Business Results in a Learning Program.” And, to cap it off, our now-retired CEO, Lola Fredrickson, had this to say about him: “Jay has been focused on (and fascinated by) measurement for many years—it’s his passion and he knows his stuff.”
BRIAN: Can you tell me a learning measurement success story?
JAY: There are hundreds of different stories, but here’s one…
When we did the SAP implementation at Deluxe Corporation—I was working there at the time—one of the things that changed was the monthly close process. When we looked at all the different transactions that had to be done for the monthly close process, we found over 20 distinct steps, that were done by different departments, and had different business owners.
So, one of the things we did was we put together a job aid—or, a behavioral checklist, if you wanted to call it that—which said, “What are the steps, in order, and who was the manager who owned each step?” And then, of course, the CFO owned the whole month-end close process at the highest level.
But, after the training, everyone had a little laminated sheet with those 20 steps, and everyone had that on their office wall while they were doing the month-end close process. Those sheets stuck around for the longest time, by the way. So, people didn’t have to go back into the training materials to find what they needed.
The result was that Deluxe’s month-end close process time decreased by 400%. And it was clear that people completed the 20-step process to reach the business goal. So, it’s really a different look at instructional design compared to the way it’s often done. We gave people their own measurable process steps, which made sure the doing part was completed—and that supported the business goal.
And so, again, now I think we spend too much time trying to prove Level 4 instead of aligning certain processes, tasks, and skills that you’re training on with your business goal.
BRIAN: What can a really effective learning measurement strategy do for an organization?
JAY: I think a very effective measurement strategy can really help drive change—behavior change, in particular. And it’s all about tying together certain processes, tasks, and skills with your business goals.
Real change takes place when what people do in the training—the processes, tasks, and skills you’re training on—get transferred to the job. And it works even better when it becomes the standard way that you do the work.
One of the things I think people skip (about measurement) is looking at your business goal and determining what is it that we want people to do differently to accomplish that goal. And, if you’re following up with people, they’re more likely to actually do it. All the research shows that.
For example: if you say, “Hey, this is the new way we’re doing inventory control,” you can create training that reinforces that. If you measure people after your training, you can prove people are doing it differently, and you can also see how your inventory accuracy increases. It’s about the idea of alignment…and the idea of the business goal…and the idea of following up: “Here’s what we said we want people to do,” and then measuring, “Are they doing it?”
BRIAN: What are the biggest opportunities for improvement that you see with L&D organizations conducting learning measurement?
JAY: I think there are a lot of opportunities for L&D organizations to become better at measurement.
Overall, I think the biggest opportunity is just having a strategy—and being proactive in your management of your strategy. When thinking about what you’re going to measure in the analysis phase of your work, and then setting up a design and implementation plan that allows you to measure it, if you really want to measure it. But really thinking up front about, “What is it we want to measure, and why?”
And I think the second portion is to give people a behavioral checklist to measure if the task is being done correctly. This supports your training and supports measuring. Finally, combining the tool with manager follow-up can really help drive change.
I think all training should relate to a business goal whenever possible. To me, it’s maybe less about training measurement, and more about alignment of “Here’s our business goal, here’s what we’re training, and here’s how they relate.” And when you’re talking about training, it should be, “What are the specific, measurable, and observable actions you want people to do after training?”
Aligning all of those together will make your training much more powerful. So, when you have those meetings with C-Suites or stakeholders, it should help you show that what you’re really trying to do is to drive business with the company and not just create courses.
BRIAN: What’s the biggest takeaway you think people will have when they leave your PACT presentation? (Jay presented on learning measurement at the Professional Association for Computer Trainers [PACT] during the winter of 2016. His presentation was well received–over 140 people attended.)
JAY: Everyone will come away probably with a different takeaway…. But what I’d like people to take out of it is how important Level 3 is to instructional design.
Doing something that you can accurately measure on the job requires a behavioral checklist, in most cases. But, over time, that’s become totally lost. Now, most training doesn’t have a behavioral checklist in it, and if you don’t really define what you want people to do differently—in specific and measurable terms—it’s very difficult to see if your training really accomplished anything.
So, hopefully people to come out and say, “I have to look at my training design differently; I have to try and make it more specific. And, if I make it more specific, then I can put together a tool that can be used in my eLearning or in the classroom, as well as on the job.” Then, once they have a tool, it can be done on the job as a self checklist, as a supervisor checklist, and so on. There are a number of different ways to follow up.
I want participants to really take a hard look at the question, “Could I measure Level 3 performance?” I believe it’s something we should be looking at from an instructional design perspective, not just a measurement perspective.