In my last blog post, Measurement as Evidence, we looked at when it is necessary to measure training, and the dangers of creating pseudo-compliance courses that take our time and attention from actual performance. Fortunately, the vast majority of learning that happens and needs to happen in our organizations is not subject to legal requirement, nor are we legally compelled to track compliance with individual events. Since the measure of compliance doesn’t help us determine business results, we can completely alleviate trying to chase measurement based on volume of training delivered.

“What’s that? You mean, don’t to track training numbers anymore?”

No.

So where does that leave us on measurement? How do we measure performance improvement for the organization? Before we are able measure our efforts towards improvement we need to make sure our efforts embrace these four core characteristics of measurable efforts:

  1. Aligned — We start by aligning ourselves to our business. Too many people in HR and training see what they do as a cost center that is disconnected from the day-to-day operations of the business. The Kirkpatrick model enables us to perpetuate that separation by giving us a measurement system that allows us to look at training as something disconnected when in fact it’s usually only one of the factors that leads to meaningful performance. The only measures we should use are the same measures we use to determine if the business is successful or not. That means, first and foremost, profitability. As part of an overall solution mix, learning systems can help build real performance improvement once learning objectives are linked with performance objectives that have a direct “line of site” link with business performance measures. This means we have to start with defined business metrics and make sure that we’ve provided a performance environment that maximizes each person’s ability to meet those needs. This type of total alignment helps further align our performance management and career development processes toward performance improvement.
  2. Identified Performance Improvement Factors — The role of learning in organizations is drastically changing. It’s no longer our job to simply pick out knowledge gaps and develop content that will fill those gaps. In an aligned state, we look at places we want the business to improve; we identify the performance factors and curate the solution.
  3. IntegratedContinuous, and Connected Experiences — When it becomes clear to us that training events are no longer the panacea (never were) and content context is where we add value, we create contexts that are meaningful to individuals in focused ways; we can then build environments that enable performance improvement. This includes solutions like cohort systems and portals that are about more than just learning.
  4. Agile — We need to embrace the need for constant change. Business needs continually change so our new role is to say aligned and be agile enough to change with it. The days where we have multi-month engagements to create large, formal training offerings are gone or greatly reduced.

If we are aligned with the business and can accurately identify the performance factors that contribute to business goals, our efforts to improve performance can be integrated, continuous, and connected.

If we live up to these core principles, then the evidence we need to measure those efforts are the same measurements we use to gauge the success of the business as a whole. Profitability as measured by the business is a very good and accurate measure of the relative success of integrated efforts towards performance improvement.

Proper execution and inclusion of these four characteristics also has a dramatic and positive impact on trust because it allows others in your organization to directly witness behaviors that confirm you are all paddling on the same tributary and in the same direction.

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