Recently a colleague told me about a training conference she attended. She said there was a session on training ROI that was well attended. I asked her how the session went. She said it seemed like everyone wanted to understand learning measurement but there was no one in the group who could provide them clarity on what measurement is all about. She said the session moderator tried to facilitate some basic conclusions from the group but the conversation left people without an answer.
Unfortunately, this is all too common and, as a result, learning measurement remains a mystery to many learning professionals. It does not have to be. Learning measurement is not complicated. To help add clarity, I thought it may be helpful to show you that learning measurement is as easy as 1-2-3.
Step 1 – Define expected learning outcomes in terms of job performance and organizational benefit
Determining success in any area requires clarification of targets, and learning is no different. We must start with the end in mind if we hope to achieve the goal. To set a plan in motion (design a solution) we must know where we are going. We cannot verify if we reached our performance targets if we do not set those targets.
Instead of talking about the “subject” that learning should address, measurement requires learning professionals to speak in terms of behavior. It requires clarity on performance (behavior) targets.
During the intake process, defining targeted outcomes enables you to:
- Clarify the right solution for the performance issue (not always learning)
- Solidify agreement between all stakeholders on the job standards and the organizational metrics to be targeted by the learning solution
- Focus learning design on the achievement of agreed upon job skills (behaviors)
Step 2 – Build learning by connecting design components that interact with one another to create a change in performance
The way we design learning programs and the decisions we make on our learning solutions dictate our success. There are components of design (such as objectives, evaluations, and learning strategies) that work together to create a change in the learner. Without identifying the connections between these components, and measuring them as a unit, we are unable to determine what we do that creates a difference. Evaluation requires a unit of measure. With a clear unit of measure, we can connect the decisions we make when we design a learning solution with the actual behavior changes in the learner.
During the design process, associating the components to create a unit of measure enables you to:
- Create alignment between instructional design components and desired job outcomes
- Identify learning units that create behavior change
- Define success for both a learning program and in the application of skills on the job
- Diagnose and repair learning design to improve learning results
Step 3 – Measure learning units at checkpoints in the learning progression
By testing the performance objectives (through the unit of measure) we can evaluate both the learning and application of the objectives. Evaluating at the different learning phases verifies the progression of training through the organization. By measuring in the different phases, we can pinpoint where learning fails. The point where learning fails provides insight into the reason for failure. When we identify points of failure we can better understand both the reason for failure and the means to repair it.
During the facilitation and application of learning, checkpoints enable you to:
- Identify points of failure and reasons for failure
- Acquire clarification on who is accountable for learning success
- Gain organizational support in making learning successful
Applying the 1-2-3 steps of learning measurement is all you need to measure your learning programs. If you follow these three steps you will have a measurement program that verifies learning results. You will gain valuable information on the effectiveness of your design decisions. You will understand what works, and what does not work within the learning process. Most important, you will not need to ask others how your training programs are doing because you will know for yourself.
It is time for learning professionals to understand the learning business so they can take charge of their own destiny. Learning measurement is not about tracking how much the learner interacts with the learning content. Rather, it is about determining what we do in the learning profession to create results. It is about understanding the targets, knowing what we do to reach those targets, and gaining information on results so we can improve our practice. It is as simple 1-2-3 with powerful results!
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