Why Is Behavior Change the Key to Learning Measurement?

learning professionals working on learning program

Measurement is a mystery to many people in our profession.

That’s a shame because measurement is the only way learning pros can show their value to the businesses they serve.

There is a deep connection between the work we do and business outcomes. At its most basic, learning adds capability to a business. It helps the business meet its goals and compete with other businesses.

What Do We Measure?

Only through measurement can we tie learning programs to concrete business results.

Sometime people hear the word “measure” and immediately think “math.”

I challenge you to think differently. It’s not math we’re after; it’s outcomes. Measurement quantifies what we do, and true learning results in behavior change. Our measures aren’t about numbers. Instead, our goal is to understand what outcomes we need, and if those outcomes succeed or fail at meeting business goals.

Why Do We Focus On Behavior Outcomes?

Too many in our profession focus on knowledge transfer only. They see the point of their programs is to pass on knowledge. That’s where their efforts begin and end. “If they know this stuff,” they reason, “then they’ll do what they’re supposed to. They will know how to apply and application will happen automatically. Knowledge is the missing piece.”

This is the wrong way to think. Why?

Yes, your program can transfer knowledge. But that knowledge won’t matter if it’s never applied. This concept gets even trickier because you can easily measure knowledge gain. That measure shows up in pre- and post-testing. However, that measure proves nothing about your program’s ability to change job performance and certainly doesn’t prove business results.

If they gain knowledge but don’t apply it, nothing changes. If nothing changes, you have failed to prove the value of your learning program. A measurable change to a business only occurs if learners DO something differently and you can measure the behavior gained from learning.

What Behavior Do You Target?

You must target behaviors used on the job and ensure that targeted behaviors are acquired in your program. That means you define conditions and criteria for the job, the specific task that the learner needs to improve. The job of the instructional designer is to figure out what the learner must do differently and design a program that enables them to “act” differently.

Here’s an abbreviated example from my book, ROI By Design, which illustrates what I mean.

A customer service department manager notices a spike in customer complaints that customer service reps are rude. The manager notes a seasonal surge in workload has increased employee stress. The manager realizes stress coping techniques (knowledge) would change how staff deal with stress (behavior) and thus lower customer complaints (metric). The learning goal is to change the behavior related to stress management. In this case, the goal will be to “perform stress reducing techniques while manning the customer service desk.”

The course goal is to provide stress management techniques that can be used on the job. If that behavior change (students using their stress reducing techniques on the job) is measured, the business will know if the expected behavior change occurred. If it did, then the stakeholders can check the metric (customer complaints) and see if using the stress reducing techniques made the expected change in the metric.  This establishes the cause and effect of learning a new skill (stress reduction) and performing (reducing customer complaints).  The goal is to always identify the behavior change from the learning program that made a difference in the company metric.

Do you need  help linking your learning programs to behavior change that affect business metrics? This is something we teach at eParamus. Our mission is to train learning professionals how to measure their programs and show quantified results to their organizations. Contact us to learn more.

Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to tell me more about your training challenges.

Photo copyright: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

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