The real world example of baggage handler shows how to link learning to business metricsI’ve mentioned in several posts how learning leaders must work to become strategic partners with business. That move only occurs when you think strategically and convey learning in business terms. That mindset shift occurs when learning pros begin to link learning to business metrics. That’s a switch that moves you away from being a tactical overhead expense to a true business partner. If you’re as interested in that topic as I am, these posts will tell you more: Naturally, since I think often about how to link learning to business metrics, I was drawn to this article from Chief Learning Officer magazine: Speak Your CEO’s Language. The article is a meaty one and makes some great points. For instance, Holbrook Hankinson, CLO for Delta Global Services, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines Inc. is quoted as saying, “CLOs get in trouble when they work in a vacuum and only focus on the training.” I couldn’t agree more. The rest of the article talks about the importance of metrics. Again, another topic near and dear to my heart. (See How Do You Choose the Right Metric to Measure Learning ROI? and Training Impact Measurement Is A Blind Spot for Business)

How Learning Measurement Works in the Real World

However, my key takeaway from this article is the excellent real-world example that they use. This example shows clearly how one CLO makes it a practice to link learning to business metrics. Hankinson was listening to operations managers at the airline talk about high turnover among ramp workers. After some research, he realized where the disconnect might be. The first 2 weeks on the job, the new ramp workers were nice and cozy in a warm office filling out paperwork and taking 40 hours of orientation training. The turnover occurred when these new workers made it to the field. Once on the airstrip, they realized how cold working outdoors could be and how strenuous it was to lift and load packed bags all day long. To address this, Hankinson created a video to show on day one of orientation what ramp workers could realistically expect from their daily routine. That way there were no surprises once orientation was over. In other words, he tailored the learning to the actual job requirements. I believe Hankinson realizes this is a temporary fix for the immediate problem because the article says, “He also plans to implement [the video] as part of the recruiting process so prospective employees know what they are getting into before they take the job.” He realizes orientation is not the problem: it’s a failure in the recruiting process leading to the high turnover rate. Prospective employees learn way too late in the process the type of job they’ve signed on for. To hire the right people from the start, those prospects need to know the hard truth about the physical requirements of the job. Using the video during recruiting will likely have an even greater impact on the turnover rate.

The Steps to Link Learning to Business Metrics

Let’s break down what Hankinson did right:
  1. He listened to the business. His colleagues described a business problem. This piqued Hankinson’s interest, so he delved deeper.
  2. He did some research to find out if learning could solve the problem. “More training” is not the answer to every business problem. The learning professional always has to do some digging to find out the root cause. Once that cause is found, then the learning leaders have to figure out if training can fix it.
  3. He found the right metric that the learning needed to target. Turnover rate among ramp workers was the metric that caused the business leaders to start talking.
  4. He created learning to address that metric. Hankinson realized more information at the orientation stage (and hopefully soon at the recruiting stage) could have a positive impact on the metric.
  5. He will measure the change in turnover rate to prove ROI of the training. The end results aren’t covered by the article, but Hankinson realized early in his job as CLO that metrics mattered greatly to his new boss. I’m certain producing ROI to show the learning impact will happen soon.
Do you want to learn how to link learning to business metrics that will reveal the true value of your learning programs? 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.
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