Message to Learning Organizations: Don’t Measure Impact, Make It

ORLANDO — There have been some great presentations and discussions here at Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2013. One of the themes that keeps popping up is measurement. One of the strongest voices on this subject is that of Dave Vance from the Center for Talent Reporting, who recently delivered a Brandon Hall Group webinar on the topic.

As part of a panel discussion about how learning could demonstrate impact more effectively, Dave made an impassioned plea to Learning professionals to step outside of their comfort zone.

One of the things Dave touched on is fear. Learning organizations are terrified of making forecasts and projections for fear of being wrong. Guess what? That’s what a forecast is: an informed guess. If people were held strictly to their forecasts, political pundits would lose their jobs every four years, economists would be out of work, and the unemployment line would be filled with meteorologists. Don’t be afraid to come to leadership with your best guess. The rest of the organization is already doing it.

Yet Learning seems to cling desperately to things like enrollment data and completion rates as signs that they are doing a great job. These things are very concrete and black and white, and require very little guts to report. But is it meaningful? In fact, is any of the measurement meaningful? In our own research, Brandon Hall Group found that the number one reason organizations want to replace their LMS is because of poor reporting. Reporting is also the number one feature they are looking for in a new system.  Is it really the system’s fault, though? Or are we simply measuring the wrong things?

Instead of measuring impact, Learning should actually attempt to make an impact. We’re so wrapped up in reporting and measurement, we have lost sight of what we should be doing. If Learning has a clear strategy that is aligned with the business goals, measuring impact should be relatively easy. You know what you want to accomplish going in. It’s much easier than trying a bunch of stuff and then picking through the rubble to find data to justify your existence.

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David Wentworth



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David Wentworth