This image describes how learning ROI progresses. In part 1 of this discussion, we’ll proceed through the bottom two layers of the pyramid, which are program design and behavior change. PyramidLet’s go through the pieces and describe how each is dependent on the other. The program design is the instrument of change and it provides the foundation that creates change. What is it that a learning program aims to change? Behavior. Behavior change is the intended result of any program and the first indication that learning has been a success. When behavior change occurs, metrics — the indicators of the state of an organization — change, and hopefully for the better. Finally, changes in metrics are quantified in financial terms. This quantification is how ROI is calculated. It’s this calculation that determines the ROI of learning. Learning professionals need to master this progression. When looking to measure and report ROI for their learning programs, they should view this progression as the means to connect their learning programs to measurable financial results.

Connect program design to behavior change

The clearest connection, and the one that lines up directly with a learning professional’s skill set, is the connection between the program design and behavior change. Instructional designers know how to write learning objectives. Learning objectives describe the intended result of learning. Objectives are directed toward improving knowledge, skills, or attitudes in participants. When objectives are realized you see results in behavior changes. Why? Because any change in knowledge or attitude shows up as behavior. To determine if results are achieved, you can provide either a knowledge test (to isolate knowledge gain) or a behavior test (to assess ability to apply knowledge and/or do skills). This allows a clear, easy, and direct connection between design and behavior change. The objective is stated and a knowledge and/or behavior test shows the achievement of the objective. By measuring the presence or absence of knowledge and/or behavior, you create a direct connection between learning and behavior change.

Learning programs must target well-documented behaviors

Adult Students in ClassWhile it’s easy to connect learning design and behavior change, remember that a program must be designed to target behaviors used on the job. The instructional design process must follow best practices. When targeting job behaviors, what best practice is most important? You must include conditions and criteria necessary for each objective. In practical terms, what does that mean? A rigorous learning program clearly states expected outcomes. The program will include all necessary elements to ensure the behaviors are acquired in the chosen learning format. How do learning professionals assess growth that is due to learning? Assessments are made with pre-behavior (current state) and post-behavior (state after learning) plans. Remember that, yes, you can teach knowledge, but knowledge matters little if it is never applied. Knowledge gains show up in pre-tests and post-tests, but that information is not what provides ROI of your learning programs. A measurable change in the organization only occurs if learners DO something differently. If I gain knowledge but do not apply it, nothing will change in the organization. If nothing changes in the organization, there will be no evidence of change and no way to prove the value of your learning program Do you grasp the connection between program design and behavior change? We’ll explain how to link behavior change to metrics and then ROI in part 2. Do you need help making your learning programs measurable? Contact us at eParamus. We’d love to help. Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD. I’d love to know more about your training challenges.
Photo copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo