Recently, I was a guest on The CLO Show. That’s a podcast produced by Riptide Software and led by moderator Patrick Hodgdon. Of course, we talked about one of my favorite topics: moving past the survey and learning how to measure by design. You can listen to that podcast here.
Following A Familiar Path To L&D
During the podcast we talked about something I’ve never discussed on my blog, which is how I entered the learning and development (L&D) profession. Like so many of us in this field, I got in through a backdoor. My undergraduate work was in marketing and I held a marketing position where I worked. Over time, I came to know their product so well that I was ultimately asked to train others about it.
This path is familiar to many current L&D professionals. You gain expertise in a product or service. To business leaders, that expertise seems like the perfect fit to lead training on the subject. This is a common L&D career path.
Even with a background in marketing, my passion was in organizational growth. That passion led me to pursue a master’s degree. For that degree, I studied management communications. Next I pursued my EdD in organization development.
I followed that educational path because I saw how organizational communications were central to success. After years running a training department, I saw one struggle for L&D pros was communicating the value of their training. L&D often relied on perception of success rather than the data or facts typically used by other business units. It became my goal to elevate learning as a critical business unit and create a method to empirically show training ROI.
In my doctoral dissertation, I focused on the biggest disconnect I saw. That was the disconnect between business managers who asked for learning programs and the learning professionals who delivered them. Through my research, I saw that the main problem all boiled down to language. L&D pros and business people were speaking two different languages. They used different terms to describe outcomes. They defined results differently. Often these differences resulted in a failure to understand each other and align goals toward organizational success.
Why Learn the Language of Business?
L&D is a critical function for organizational success. It is the main function to add organizational capability. What terms should L&D use when speaking to other business units? You need to speak—and understand—the language of outcomes and metrics. That is the universal language of business. Why? Every business and organization uses metrics to measure success.
Someone somewhere in every department of every company is measuring something. (If they’re not, then they won’t be a company for long.) These measures show success or failure and business professionals follow them religiously. It’s easy to see how well or poorly a business is doing just by looking at these measures over time.
Unfortunately, too many L&D pros don’t measure their programs this way. They hardly ever try to tie their programs to specific business metrics.
Instead, they keep trying to measure the L&D function. How many courses did we teach? How many students attended? Did we get great scores on our smiley sheets? While these data points might give some insight into the efficiency or productivity of your group, they tell you exactly nothing about how your training improved the business.
Good training makes the business work better. The main goal of L&D is to make a business more capable, not make L&D more capable. If your group is measuring metrics inside L&D then that’s a failure. The metrics that need to be measured are outside the L&D department, not inside.
As an example, with a learning program that teaches sales staff how to improve their closing techniques, you’d measure the metric of closed sales. After the learning, you’d expect this metric to improve. That metric is measured by students who change their behaviors through learning. They then make more sales. There is no measure of L&D activities that would show you that change.
It’s measures of results like this that reveal the quality of the L&D function and the learning that is produced.
Metrics Reveal the Value of L&D In Ways Businesses Understand
Once you learn how to create training that focuses on these business metrics, then the business leaders you work with will see the training function in a new light. You’ll become a partner in the business, as you should be. Your value will be tangible, provable, and measurable. Speaking in the terms of business results, using the language of business, is essential to achieving that status.
I believe learning is the main component to organizational success. I am dedicated to highlighting the effectiveness of training and providing our industry with the understanding of their value. If you need to create effective training and positively impact your organization every time, then you need the tools to help your team design for impact.
At eParamus, we teach people every day how to link learning programs to business results and how to speak the language of business results. Want to learn more? Contact us here at eParamus.
Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to discuss the learning challenges you face.
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