The State of Learning Measurement

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With the L&D industry at the cusp of a transformation, the effort to secure a seat at the table, and work as partners in strategizing organizational growth, is evident. It’s a great sign that according to the LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2020, 83% of L&D professionals assert that executive buy-in is not a challenge. So purpose-wise, 2020 seems promising for the larger goal for L&D at large as being more than a ‘support’ function, and being instrumental in impacting businesses overall—something that is also on the forefront in our organizational purpose at Upside Learning.

From a strategy point of view, the same report touts ‘evaluating the effectiveness of learning programs’ as top priority for L&D professionals globally—which in 2019 was ‘to identify and assess skills gaps’. This shift in priority brings to the fore the next important aspect—making or facilitating a deliberate effort towards measuring learning effectiveness.

Learning Measurement Strategies and Approaches
When it comes to measuring formal learning programs, the 2019 Learning Measurement Study by Brandon Hall Group found that 50% of the organizations mention they are fairly effective at it. The relatively lower proportion of organizations claiming lesser measurement effectiveness of informal (15%) and experiential (24%) learning programs is worth noting.

Pie-charts showing the key observations around the effectiveness of Learning Measurement as per the 2019 Learning Measurement Study by Brandon Hall Group

Why the significant difference across the types of learning programs? Formal learning programs certainly seem to offer a fair view of some initial metrics, right from basic topical reports to organization-wide data (depending on how mature the learning strategy of the organization is and how invested the C-suite is in the initiative). But gathering pertinent data itself may not be feasible in case of informal and experiential programs, unless they are deliberately so designed.

It cannot be stressed enough that course completion alone is insufficient—and potentially misleading—when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of a learning program, or even its ability to engage employees. Also, ascribing the effectiveness of learning programs to ‘course completion’ or ‘learner feedback’ seems counterintuitive if the performance outcome itself is intangible. It’s therefore a true challenge—most of the L&D interventions deal with qualitative results that are not always tangible, such as behavioral changes or performance improvement, and the challenge is compounded by the fact that results may not manifest as an immediate effect of a learning program. This puts the learning measurement metrics under the microscope, along with the design approach of the program itself.

So what is the most suitable approach in sight? With the rate at which workplaces and businesses continue to evolve, the L&D industry is poised for meaningful, relevant approaches to measure business impact of learning programs—by first monitoring the drivers of learning measurement.

Taking a Deeper Look at the Business Impact of Learning Programs
How might organizations measure the effectiveness of any and every learning program? They say the first step is the hardest—and that’s exactly where the L&D community is stationed: primed to Go Beyond the usual course completion metrics (surely these might still be useful for other logistical purposes, but need not be taken at face value as an absolute measure of impactful workplace learning). To catalyze this perspective change, it is essential to know what exactly drives learning measurement and then take a deep dive into putting it into practice. More on that in the next post!

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