The 2 most important learning metrics

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CEOs care about learning programs.  To gain more executive-level interest, guess what learning and development folks? CEOs want metrics.  The learning metrics you may have collected and reported on might need adjustment to become important to an executive.

The organization challenge that leader’s need to recognize is that an organization’s ability to learn and to adapt is the only source of competitive advantage.  Development professionals only gain stature in the business environment when they meet and plan business solutions.

The ROI Institute and Chief Learning Officer magazine have a study recap that should provide a clearer map of our worth.  The targets of this survey were CEOs at Fortune 500 companies and the top 50, privately held firms.  From this population 450 firms were sent a survey.  21.3% responded.

Quick hits:

  • 4% of CEOs avoid learning and development investments
  • 20% of CEOs invest only in the minimum
  • 10% of CEOs invest in all learning and development needs
  • 18% of CEOs invest when they see value

The survey further landed the reality of learning and development environments in the results to determine how close the CEO works with their lead learning and development (L&D) executive.  To assess this, the survey asked CEOs to check “1” to indicate the L&D executive reports direct to the CEO; a “2” if there are 2 levels between them; and a “3” if there are 3 levels between the CEO and the L&D lead.  The average response:  3.2, meaning the CEO is more than 3 levels removed from their L&D executive.

The chart below provides the greatest opportunity to get, or stay, in the business discussions with CEOs.  Along the left column 1 through 8 signify metrics currently in use:

  • 1 and 2 are process measures or inputs to the process;
  • 3 through 7 are roughly mapped to classic levels of evaluation*; and
  • 8 was included as awards are typically reported in larger organizations.

The column on the far right lands the case for change in our relevance:  impact and ROI.  Impact and ROI are 1 and 2 to “my ranking of the importance of this measure”.

Toby Elwin, executive view of metrics, clo, ceo, chief learning officer

CEOs are telling us they want details on learning and development mapped to:

  1. Business strategy impact and
  2. ROI

What are we reporting?  Let’s take a look at learning and development scorecards.  Though the survey reveals only 22% of CEOs said they had one or see one, of those, only 1 CEO indicated they were pleased with the current scorecard.  Comments from the 22% include:

  • “inadequate”
  • “incomplete”
  • “doesn’t have all the data”
  • “doesn’t really connect to the business” [emphasis added]3

The first rule in communication:  know your audience.

If we were unsure before or banging our heads against the wall looking for an opportunity, we now have gold to work with from these results.  Consider these results as if you had a direct conversation with your CEO and what was relevant for the CEO’s world of understanding.

An organization’s ability to learn and to adapt is the only source of competitive advantage.  Our ability to become, or remain, relevant also comes down to an ability to learn and adapt.

The best evaluator I have come across to marry training for business results and measure impact is Kirkpatrick Model.  Any trainer worth their salt knows of the Kirkpatrick Model to evaluate demonstrated training business partnership.

The slides below show detail of each level:

  • Level 1: Reaction — To what degree participants react favorably to the training.
  • Level 2: Learning  — To what degree participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitudes, confidence, and commitment based on their participation in a training event.
  • Level 3: Behavior — To what degree participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.
  • Level 4: Results — To what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement.

Important to note that you need to build Level 1, then 2, then 3, to get to Level 4.  Each level below builds ability to meet the next.  You can not jump to Level 4:  Results without accomplishing Levels 1:  Reaction through Level 3:  Behavior.

To introduce The Kirkpatrick model you may begin to build programs that accomplish Level 2:  Learning, reliably, then as you build awareness of these results add feature elements to accomplish Level 3:  Behavior, and so on.

training, kirkpatrick, toby elwin, evaluation, level 1, level 2

The Kirkpatrick Model, 4 Level’s of Evaluation, Level 1 and Level 2 – select picture for larger view

training, kirkpatrick, toby elwin, evaluation, level 3, level 4

The Kirkpatrick Model, 4 Level’s of Evaluation, Level 3 and Level 4 – select picture for larger view

Sources for 2 most important learning metrics:

  1. How Executives View Learning Metrics Chief Learning Officer magazine
  2. The ROI Institute
  3. The Kirkpatrick Partners