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The importance of measuring learning and development

As many HR professionals are aware, behaviour change is key to knowing if leadership training and development has been effective. But it's being able to demonstrate and sustain change as well as show that behaviours are having a positive impact on the business that is challenging most HR professionals when it comes to justifying budgets for leadership development programmes.


Have leaders learnt skills that help to drive the corporate strategy and deliver the goals of the company? And are they sustaining this behaviour to affect the business bottom line? 

Without the right measures in place, both before and after training, companies will fail to answer these questions and will struggle to know the true value of their investment in leadership development. 

Forum EMEA research has found that high performing companies are the ones that can demonstrate behaviour change, maintain this change and measure its affect on business results. 

This is because they align learning with specific business outcomes and treat learning as an on-going process – not a one-off event – with measurement playing a significant part throughout.

Measurement found wanting

Despite the link between measurement and performance, only 38% of the 223 companies we interviewed put in place steps to demonstrate the impact of behaviour change on the business to a moderate extent. 

We found as little as 20% of most company's time and money is spent on aligning development with the goals of the company. And the same small amount of resource is used to monitor how leaders are applying and benefiting from what they've learnt to ensure behaviour sticks. 

Instead, most organisations spend 60% of their resources on one-off training events. They have no idea if staff are applying the lessons they've learnt after the event or whether the training has equipped teams with the relevant skills to drive business strategy. In short, they could be wasting their efforts. The key is to create a learning system rather than a training event. 

Management buy-in

Before any learning is underway, it's critical to get commitment from senior stakeholders on what behaviours will help drive the goals of the business and how new skills will be monitored and measured.  

Hold an impact workshop with management to set out a measurement strategy, which includes which skills to focus on and specific business outcomes expected from changes in behaviour, such as to help generate new business or increase customer retention. Then agree how to track this change and its influence on the business, and how to report results back to stakeholders. 

Once you've overcome the biggest hurdle  – senior management buy in – choose a method of learning that will sustain and steer change to meet the goals of the business. 

These six learning principles that we endorse at Forum can help:

1. Ensure learners see the connection between business goals, individual performance and learning opportunities. 

2. Employees should be clear on the learning path and where it takes them. 

3. Address learners’ attitudes and beliefs as well as their behaviours when teaching them new skills. 

4. Check that individuals can identify opportunities to apply learning to real situations. 

5. Create opportunities for participants to teach as well as learn. 

6. Design and develop learning communities and learning materials.

Monitor results

Once the learning programme is complete, companies can use web-based survey programmes to measure results at five levels: reaction, learning, behaviour, results and return on investment. These metrics can be used to determine how effective the training was against the objectives set from the outset. 

It's then vital to ensure that all new skills taught to help drive agreed business results are applied and maintained.  Without this insight, it's hard to know if learning programmes have truly paid off and are having an impact on the business. 

To help support and encourage continuous learning, ensure that learners can access examples of successful behaviour, practice opportunities and coaches that can help them. Offer rewards and recognitions to reinforce new behaviours and to motivate people to change. And put communication and measurement plans in place to feedback and reflect on success, progress and results. 

Web-based learning systems can also help maintain, track and measure behaviour change. Such systems ensure that staff are applying their learning on the job, tracks their progress and enables them to share ideas and stories with fellow learners. 

Then work with senior management to report back on these behaviour changes and review them against agreed business outcomes. For example, have your customers fed back improvements in service or are staff more engaged since changes in behaviour among learners? 

Without measures, it's hard to know how effective your leadership development programme has been in changing behaviour that has helped drive business results. But if you align learning with business goals, equip leaders with the right skills and sustain behaviours then you can confidently justify the value of your training and development spend. 

*Graham Scrivener is the managing director of Forum EMEA, a leadership development and sales performance training. 

Forum will be hosting a webinar on 'Using measurement to drive impact and effectiveness of your leadership development programme' on Thursday, 27th June. To register to join the webinar, visit www.forumemea.co.uk