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New Year’s Resolutions 2011

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I humbly submit three New Year’s resolutions that will insure your training program is relevant, useful and delivers practical metrics.

1. Make it Human
Too often, organizations venturing into eLearning forget the power of and importance of human interaction - whether with facilitators/mentors, workgroups/peers or managers. These last two groups are critical. Almost all work today is team based. The ability to network and collaborate with peers is a key competency in today’s workforce. Management support is perhaps the most critical component to ensure focus on appropriate skill transfer, and that those skills are applied in the workspace.

Social media tools facilitate these connections in ways that were not previously sustainable. The access to expert mentors was much more constrained by schedule and location constraints, but social media tools remove almost all of these obstacles.

Earlier articles explored how Accord LMS empowers its customers to seamlessly integrate the appropriate tools to provide social media and mentoring in their learning platform. Accord LMS also has the unique ability to collect data on informal learning activities by wrapping any interaction or resource in a Learning Events that will track utilization metrics. I am not advocating a formalization of informal learning, nor do I wish to impact more natural, informal learning occurring in the workplace by recommending heavy-handed tracking requirements. My recommendation is actually simple, and should be transparent/invisible to users: if there are superb support resources available to your employees, like a mentor network or community-supported wikis to share best practices, the organization benefits by having information on how these assets are being leveraged to help achieve company objectives.

2. Evaluate your Reporting
Problems with measuring and reporting come in three basic flavors:
  • Measuring/Reporting Nothing
  • Measuring/Reporting the Wrong Things
  • Measuring/Reporting Too Much

Measuring/Reporting Nothing
If you are not taking measures, you may first want to ask yourself if a learning solution is needed at all (you may surprise yourself). If you are convinced a learning solution is valuable, then why? If you were questioned on what this does for the business, how could you demonstrate its value? That’s what stakeholders want - what training will provide to drive the business to achieving its goal.

I have worked in many organizations where training records and completion must be kept for legal purposes: almost like ensuring that every employee signs off on reviewing the Employee Handbook – a useless resource. I have also seen training data collected that demonstrated direct contribution to business goals that was never provided to the stakeholders – a wasted resource.

Measuring/Reporting the Wrong Things
You collect a wealth of data, you create reports for stakeholders, yet it seems that the response to the information is tepid. This is often the case with training data. Generally, the issue is measuring the wrong things.

The general problem I have seen with training metrics is that most report activity data, not information that demonstrates how training results translate to business improvements. Many of my colleagues affectionately term these metrics as the “burgers served” metrics: how many coursed completed, how many training hours logged, how many employees trained, average numbers of attempts to complete a course… the list goes on. I have seen hundreds of pages of these metrics presented to executives in organizations.

What do these measures tell executives about how training is improving the team’s ability to realize business objectives? Do they provide insights about employee capability?

Information was collected, but it provides little knowledge about how training is helping the business goals. Refocus your efforts to ask the questions your stakeholders would ask about the business, and collect that data. Often, this requires that your training data would need to be combined in some manner with operational data or business analytics. This is a bit of work to get right, but does tighten the relationship between training efforts and business results, making the contributions more apparent to all stakeholders.

Measuring/Reporting Too Much
First, if you are reporting the wrong things, cut these out of reports; this is usually where a lot of “too much” comes from. Stakeholders can also request more than they need. I have had requests for detailed reports on course results: everything from average time, average attempts to pass, results on each specific question deployed including percent breakdown on correct/incorrect answers. Although it provides all the information needed, this amount of data is not in a format that will be read - by almost anyone, but specifically executives. Find real valuable information stakeholders want and provide that data in summary format for quick and clear analysis and decision making (in my instance, it was average attempts to pass, and what the key problem questions/areas were to target ongoing development and support). Just remember the audience – deliver the information they need in a format that will work for their decision making processes. These two simple considerations can insure training reports are relevant and useful.

3. Tame the Beast
The last suggestion I offer is to really focus your offerings: often less is more. Are there courses or assets in your system that are taking space, have marginal value and pull focus from more valuable assets? Do you need to keep them? Can you consolidate and/or summarize them?

I often find that organizations can buy catalogs of courses and deploy them, because in defining their initial worth, a breadth and/or depth of offerings presents a lot of offerings to the employees and can give the appearance of importance for training for needing to manage a large catalog of offerings. But are these offerings really driving business results for your organization or are they just a large catalog of items to manage? Large catalogs with value are fine, but I find that often the larger the catalog, the more its value needs to be questioned (not to mention issues of redundancy). Many organizations are so busy dealing with the next challenge that their catalog becomes weighted down with dated assets that actually dilute their training program.

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While your mileage may vary, these 3 resolutions will help you deploy a training program that is focused, high-valued and able to demonstrate tangible contributions to your stakeholders.
| Categories: eLearning

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