Learning and development plays a vital role in enhancing employees and organisational performance, as detailed by Ruth Stuart, Research Adviser at CIPD.
Learning does not stop when you leave the classroom. It’s a life-long continual process of insight, reflection and growth. Increasingly organisations are tapping into this potential for development and connecting learning to tangible business outcomes.
The CIPD 2014 Learning and Development (L&D) survey report1 (completed by over 1000 learning professionals) finds that greater integration of L&D activity and business strategy is the most anticipated change in the next 2 years. Also expected is more emphasis on monitoring, measuring and evaluating training effectiveness.
Some organisations are already making progress. Greater business focus is cited as the number one change for organisations over the last year. This is a welcome development. Business and learning leaders are recognising that in order to enhance employee and organisational performance they need to work hand in hand. But doing so may require a shift in mindset in some organisations and increased focus on measuring the impact of L&D activity, for 3 key reasons.
1. Demonstrating value can help to enhance L&D credibility across the organisation.
2. Evaluating true learning impact means investment can be justified, and made where it’s needed most.
3. Data can help you to understand what works, so you can stop/start/continue activity to achieve maximum business impact.
In this regard the findings of the report initially appear to be promising. The research shows that organisations are investing significantly more time and attention on measurement. The 2014 survey findings show a marked improvement in assessment methods used to measure the impact of learning. The proportion using business metrics (such as profitability, revenue and market growth) increased from 38% (in 2013) to 54% in 2014. Those calculating the return on investment (ROI) of interventions increased from 26% to 48%. So we are increasingly measuring impact. However, this isn’t the end of the story. 60% of organisations say that they have difficulties measuring the effectiveness of L&D activity. While a quarter rarely use the data they collect. The old adage of ‘what get’s measured get managed’ may not be true in this case.
So what stops us?
- Two-thirds say that managers • and leaders don’t prioritise L&D evaluation.
- 60% feel it’s difficult to access data consistently.
- Almost half admit that they don’t have the skill or resource to focus on metrics.
- Over a third can’t get access to key business information and data.
It seems that the key to solving these challenges is collaboration and integration. L&D departments need to build relationships across the organisation to ensure they understand the business model and have the skills to interpret business data. In many cases this may mean further integration into the heart of the business.
The benefits of doing so can be substantial. When aligned to business priorities learning and development activities have the potential to help organisations transform performance. Leadership development activities can help set a new direction to forge a new culture and focus. Raising the skills of the workforce can lead to enhanced engagement, commitment and ultimately individual performance. Whatever the business challenge it is highly likely that effective L&D interventions have a role to play. With this in mind we offer ‘2 calls to action’ reflecting the findings of our latest report, in collaboration with Towards Maturity, Aligning business and learning2.
Call to action to business leaders
- Embrace your L&D team as a partner in change;
- Demand that your L&D function focuses on outcome measures, not just inputs;
- Recognise your own power to role model effective learning.
Call to action to learning leaders
- Build relationships at the heart of the business;
- Align all activity to business priorities;
- Demonstrate value.
1 CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL AND DEVELOPMENT. (2014) Learning and development annual survey report 2014 [online]. London: CIPD. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/L&Dsurvey
2 CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PERSONNEL AND DEVELOPMENT. (2014) Aligning business and learning: Why now, what’s next? [online]. London: CIPD. Available at: http://www.cipd.co.uk/hrresources\event-summaries/aligning-learning-business.aspx
Research Adviser – L&D
CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development