How to Measure the Impact of Learning and Development on Team Performance
Growth, cost reduction and increased productivity are the top priorities for organizations, according to the UK CIPD 2023 Learning at Work report. Globally, every company is facing increased uncertainty and teams need the right skills and mindsets to keep moving forward. The impact of learning and development has never been so critical.
Studies show that team training interventions are successful in improving performance. The right interventions also improve teamwork processes because of the impact on cognitive and affective experiences.
The question is, what do the right interventions look like and how do we measure them?
With cost reduction in the top 3 of most business's priorities, it's critical that we understand how to measure the effectiveness of employee learning and development. Gone are the days of providing classroom-style training programs.
Today, L&D needs to be designed in partnership with the business to meet strategic objectives. Capability gaps need to be closed and tailored experiential journeys executed alongside workflow processes.
It all starts with defining how your leadership training and development program is going to support growth and productivity whilst being cost sensitive. There are 5 common frameworks to then measure the impact of learning and development on those objectives, as detailed below:
This widely used model is one of the easiest to apply and operates across 4 levels. The aim is to get feedback from participants across these levels: their response to the learning program, the level of learning they experienced, how they applied it and what were the results.
One of the key differences with this model is that it specifically asks you to review the organization as a whole and how it is supporting learning and development, and vice versa.
The aim of the SCM is to evaluate the best and worst learning programs and to interview participants in order to draw practical insights into the impact of learning and development.
3- Phillips ROI Model
This approach adds a fifth level, Return On Investment, to Kirkpatrick's 4 levels. So, how do you measure learning and development with ROI? The aim is to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to fully understand the impact.
Benefits include, for example, productivity, profits and process improvements. Costs include program development, delivery, costs and time.
With this framework, the focus moves from measuring the outcome to focusing on the value of the learning program for all stakeholders. These include learners, managers and the overall organization.
By reviewing the various interactions between participants, trainer or coach and the content itself, the aim is to enhance the factors that support learning. In short, the model evaluates the level of collaboration and depth of relationships between participants with a view to assessing how the learning experience takes place.
5- Kaufman's 5 Levels of Evaluation
Again, this model is similar to Kirkpatrick's but with a twist. The first 3 levels are input, process and acquisition. In other words, what materials and context were used, how can process effectiveness be measured and how much change did learners apply to their day-to-day work?
The final two levels were originally called mega and micro but can also be referred to as societal and organizational payoffs. Societal can refer to a company's client base or the wider society it impacts.
You might have the perfect measuring system but delivery is also key to ensure maximizing the impact of learning and development. One of the main issues with training and development is that it is often designed through a process-focused lens.
Whilst processes and results are important, if you overlook the affective, people will simply forget their learning. For example, do you simply want to teach some new skills or do you want your leaders and employees to change their behaviors?
Most adults have a good idea of who they are and what they believe in. So, you might have a high achiever, results-focused person who gets things done but they somehow leave the rest of the team behind. As a result, you miss critical viewpoints in formulating products or sales and lose potential customers.
In short, self-reflection is a critical component to ensure a positive impact of training and development on employee performance. Without it, people do not challenge themselves and even risk believing that they already know everything. With self-reflection, they are open to feedback and can honor their learning style and overall progress.
Self-reflection doesn't just happen. You also need to cultivate the right conditions to allow people the space to reflect.
In fact, a 2014 study shows that you need 5 best practices to ensure the best impact on learning and development:
• Aligned to organizational objectives - like the Brinkerhoff and Anderson models, it's always strategic to start with core company objectives when designing development programs. For example, how will your program impact productivity or create a growth culture?
• Self-paced and learner focused - people learn best according to their style and pace whilst getting support from a community. At BookClub, we bring all this together in the form of learning groups. Participants then have the format and space to discuss and apply the wisdom gained from books in manageable chunks.
• Embedded into workflow - just like the wisdom from books can often be summarized into actions, so each development program needs to be applicable to everyday work.
• Chunked learning - we all learn best in small and frequent doses. The ideal state is to discuss and debate them with a group, test them out at work and then reflect back with the group, just like a BookClub structure.
• Multi-media approach - the impact of learning and development goes much deeper when there is variety. Not only does that keep the mind curious and engaged but it also caters to all our learning styles.
Once you know which framework you're going to use to determine the impact of your L&D programs, how do you measure learning and development? You still need to incorporate metrics into your framework.
Of course it's critical to get feedback from the participants of whatever training or development they are doing but you still need metrics. As we all know, simply saying that they enjoyed their employee learning and development isn't enough. It might be nice but companies are profit-driven whether we like it or not.
Being profit-driven doesn't mean companies can't also be people-driven. The two are not exclusive. In fact, businesses are increasingly realizing that people drive profits even if they often de-prioritize people under short-term pressure.
It takes a brave executive to keep prioritizing employee development training during spending cuts. And yet, it's a key factor for getting businesses through tough times.
As we explain in our white paper on Practical Strategies for L&D leaders, renowned Mindset author, Carol Dweck, states that ensuring a culture with a growth mindset is one of the best ways to adapt during challenging times. And you do that by maximizing the impact of learning and development.
To further boost your decision to focus on employee learning and development, despite budget challenges, you need strong metrics.
• Skills gap - you'll need to start with a detailed skills gap analysis and your own scoring chart with skills definitions to define what exactly you're looking for. Most importantly, make sure it ties up with your organization's objectives and future needs.
• Employee retention - most companies measure this but for L&D programs, it's helpful to get a trend over time. So, start tracking it and note how it changes during and after learning interventions.
• Productivity - this one will be specific per team but it's a great way to engage the organization's sponsor. In other words, what does the leader or manager expect from this L&D program?
• Dupont Bradley curve score - originally defined to analyze safety culture, this curve gives a very useful and practical view of how organizations develop.
• The chart itself is relatively intuitive and with your stakeholders, you can easily devise a scale along the bottom axis. This allows you to then determine where you believe you are as an organization. You can then come back to the chart at predetermined intervals to reflect on how you are progressing along the curve.
• 360 feedback scores - this traditional tool can also be helpful to determine the impact of learning and development whilst giving participants some insight from their ecosystem.
The final challenge is that the impact of learning and development could be short-lived or sustained for the long term. It's only normal for new habits to gradually fall back into old ones or new learnings to fade away.
To ensure you've optimized your employee development training, you need to also nurture a learning culture. The more peer support everyone has to keep learning and failing, the more likely people will dare to try new things.
They'll also have a common language around learning which gives them a sense of belonging. This goes beyond simple engagement. It also motivates people at a deeper level. That’s because they see everyone else working on improving themselves so it spurs their own self-improvement actions.
Another powerful technique to ensure sustained learning is the art of questioning. Every trainer knows that you can have the best content in the world but without questions to trigger a-ha moments, no one is likely to remember it.
Coaches are another critical ally when maximizing the impact of learning and development to create a learning culture. Their very existence depends on the art of questioning, alongside building rapport.
You too can bring this mindset to your organization. You can even help employees release their inner Tony Robbins by training on motivational interviewing.
To maintain such a learning culture and keep building high performing teams, you need to foster the right behaviors. We further detail this, again, in our white paper on Practical Strategies for L&D leaders:
• Practice - we can only hope to change our habits and rewire our brains through repetition. Nevertheless, you can create the right environment by encouraging peer support, regular check-in moments and ongoing debate.
• Consistency - a great way to implement a structure is through a regular BookClub. Moreover, there will be snippets of wisdom from books to share at each meet-up to keep boosting motivation levels.
• Meaning - the impact of training and development on employee performance will go much deeper if people know what they're aiming for.
• Psychological safety - we don't just need to reflect on what we learn. We also need to nail the fail in business and life. Without feeling safe to embrace feedback from failure, none of us can hope to improve.
What's Your Next Step For Your L&D Measurement?
The world of L&D has changed and there is now an opportunity to become more strategic than ever before. Businesses need their people if they hope to grow and deal with today's challenges. Nevertheless, L&D also needs to be innovative.
Whether you choose Kirkpatrick over the Brinkerhoff, or other framework to measure the impact of learning and development is, of course, up to you. Simply make sure you choose business-related metrics alongside gathering feedback from participants and their colleagues.
Most importantly, don't work in isolation. Partner with the business to ensure the culture encourages and sustains leadership training and development. By nurturing co-learning and co-reflection, teamwork improves as does individual performance.
Your teams will then be more engaged and, by definition, so will your customers. You'll be set on the path to creating an ecosystem that builds a better future for everyone, not just your shareholders.