The domestication of the electron in the 1800’s created the digital age we are now fully emerged in today.
From an education perspective this enabled us to take learning into our own hands – literally!
Educators today are under great pressure to not only provide cutting-edge, modern learning but also prove that what they do holds real value to learners.
Modern learning habits are very different from what they were just five or ten years ago. Learners now access information on their own devices, on the move, and, increasingly, at a point of need.
Formal learning content is competing with what’s available on Google, YouTube, and across social networks.
The domestication of the electron and the digital revolution is also driving a faster pace of changes with a concurrent faster need to adapt.
With workforces increasingly scattered across different locations, there’s an increasing need for technology to play its part in uniting and supporting teams to perform, develop, and grow.
Amidst this challenging backdrop, how can LMSs keep up with the needs consumer-like learners:
• Align strategy to real business needs from the start
• Get close to learners and their world
• Set up data dashboards to continually keep track
• Become nimble in response to needs
In order to know you achieve your goal you have to measure your performance. The challenge with education is measuring that performance, which, unfortunately, but understandably, education providers haven’t been great at.
Evaluation is something constantly cited as a must-do. In Towards Maturity’s 2016 report “Preparing for the Future of Learning,” says 97% of L&D teams rate evaluation and data analytics as important for the future. Yet while we’re pretty good at basic-level “happy sheets,” only 17% of L&D leaders say they measure agreed-upon business-level KPIs.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Learning and Development report shows that the harder or more important the measure—i.e., showing real performance improvements as a result of learning interventions— the less we do it. Why might this be?
• It takes too much time
• It’s hard to do
• We’re scared of negative results
• We don’t know what to do with the results
Meanwhile, learners generate their own data and trends, by voting with their feet (or is that ngers?), learners are generating their own stories about what’s useful and relevant. As they pick and choose learning and support resources and advice to help them—and share what they are using with others—they are creating trends and generating data all the time.
LMS providers must show their systems have real value to the community.
The key is to rst tie up the learning strategy so it targets business needs and learner preferences and then track what’s working, over time.
At the heart of the answer is taking a more collaborative and open approach to corporate learning projects; using conversation as much as data to help pave the way to continual improvement for learners and the business; and understanding that it’s a holistic and collaborative e ort that’s OK to talk about, together.
BEST PRACTICES TO DELIVER BUSINESS VALUE
1. Align your strategy to real business needs from the beginning
If a business leader says managers need training, do you understand why? To ensure your learning ventures will deliver real value to business leads, you need to come to grips with the performance improvements they need to see. This means acting a little bit more like a performance consultant than a learning designer and asking questions that take you closer to the real problem.
Try these questions:
- What evidence is there that there’s a performance problem or skills gap?
- What other factors could be involved? (learning may not be the (full) x,
- What have you tried already? (manager interventions, process improve-
- What will tell you the problem has been xed? (KPIs)
- Who will know if targets are being met?
Once you’re clear on what type of learning or performance support intervention might be needed, agree on the KPIs your project will target and how they will be measured.
• Mystery shopper ratings will increase from 3/4 to 4/5 on average, by X date.
• Average customer queue times will drop from 4 to 3 mins, by X date – via spot checks.
• Production of X product will increase by 5% over the next quarter.
• Annual staff turnover in X and Y roles will reduce from 4/20 to 1/20.
2. Get close to learners and their world
Talk to your customers (learners) so you can understand their needs, pain points, and learning preferences. Don’t just go with what managers say is needed. After all, if you fail to engage your learners and provide something useful and relevant to them, you’ll hurt your chances of meeting those business KPIs.
• Use surveys alongside real conversations to nd out what learners’ pain points are, when they feel them, and what they feel would help.
• Observe learners at work – Understand the task(s) you’re trying to help them improve.
• Find a performance hero – Watch and learn from an expert, create tangi- ble benchmarks.
• Consider the short and long term – Separate the instant xes from those that address long-term/preventative ones, which may be more training- and coaching-related.
Doing the above will help you gure out what kinds of performance enhancement content is needed and whether you need to invest in skill or behavioral learning, just-in-time content, or a bit of both. By talking with learners, you’ll have a good sense of how much time they have for learning, what devices they are most likely to use, where they’ll do it (on the train, at their desk), and what learning or support examples they’ve liked in the past.
All of this helps shape your learning strategy and should give you fodder for additional targets to measure against, to tell you if you are giving that audience what they need.
Create some additional targets for yourself to show you what your strategy is for engaging learners: Take-up? Completions? Shares? Frequency of use (for just-in- time support)?
3. Set up some data dashboards to keep track
Realistically, business-level KPIs can take a while to come to fruition. In the meantime, you probably want to know that your efforts are hitting the mark with your primary customers–your learners. If they’re not, you’re unlikely to meet those KPI targets and may not be doing any favors for your project reputation.
Set up some dashboards for your digital learning projects so you can keep track of how they are being used. By keeping track on a continuous basis, you can make changes to your strategy along the way and actively help learners on their journey to those all-important performance improvements.
Doing this across multiple elearning projects means you can pass lessons from one to another and build a fuller pro le of learning habits.
Combine this with regular conversations and further surveys, and you’ll increase your chances of hitting those targets to no end.
What might you look for?
If you’ve designed learning as performance support–to help salespeople with on-the-job product information, for example–you may expect mobile and tablet access to be high and time spent to be short but frequent. Completion is by-the-by, as it’s all about learners taking what they need, when they need it.
If you’re expecting learners to work through topics as a step-by-step course, you may expect time spent to be longer and for topics to be completed. If this isn’t the case, you may need to talk with learners and change course–perhaps available learning time only comes in short windows, and so shorter, bite-size topics are needed. Or, more are accessing it over mobiles than you’d expected, making longer topics more challenging to use.
You can also monitor data around how learners interact with content and answer key questions–especially ones that indicate their level of comprehension and skills application.
If you notice scores are continually low in a key area, you may have to provide further learning.
“Dashboards that enable continuous measurement of how digital learning is being accessed, when, where, how long for, alongside info about how the content is being interacted with and how indicative questions are being answered, is vital for any learning project. Combined with regular conversations with learners and managers, you’ll have everything you need for delivering value.”
With help-yourself elearning, uptake stats are really important, as they tell you how popular it is, but don’t jump to quick conclusions if uptake is low. It could be due to a lack of awareness of its existence, poor communication and marketing of its benefits, or manager support of the initiative.
4. Adapt your processes so you’re nimble to needs
Be the team that responds to business needs by embracing nimbler, smarter processes; use tools that enable you to create and amend solutions quickly.
Learners’ and business needs change and can emerge suddenly. If a sales team needs to push a new product’s development to keep ahead of new competitors, they need to be equipped with the knowledge to do so quickly. If businesses need to cut costs by tightening processes, you’ll need to get teams up to speed with those new processes fast.
You may also notice that part of your learning strategy isn’t working quite as well as you intended. Then, you’ll need to make some simple updates and republish it. What won’t help in any of these situations is out of date processes that slow down your ability to move at speed and adjust to needs.
• Use collaborative technologies to stay on track – Keep business leads, experts, and learning professionals in the loop, together, with collabora- tive, online tools.
• Go for a central, collaborative authoring tool – Cut out paperwork and author elearning directly and smartly, as a team.
• Empower your team members to create and edit – Remove blockers and enable all team members to create and update content directly and quickly.
• Set-up reusable themes and assets to fast-track new projects.
• Invest in instant updates with cloud-based tools where updates are
instant to all devices.
Sharing is caring! Collaborative authoring tools with in-built editing and commenting capabilities are not only great for getting content created quickly by teams, but also for bringing key stakeholders into the process. Use them to increase your chances of developing content that delivers real needs and value. Get some learners and business leads involved from the start.
5. Open up
Measuring value and strategy improvements is only half of the story. The other half IS the story.
If you’re talking to learners and businesses about needs, creating solutions, and measuring their success by tracking data and capturing feedback from real users, you have a big story to share. Your story is even bigger if you’re continually improving what you do.
Being open about your efforts to better meet people’s needs is more than OK; by making communication a two-way street, you’re more likely to get anecdotal feedback, support, and collaboration from your customers.
Research shows that employees who feel empowered and involved in their own development, and with the business at large, are more likely to stick around and to be more productive and innovative. If you’re looking to push for those important business level KPIs, getting learners on your side by involving them in the process of continual improvement is more likely to bring about the desired outcomes. This is a big bonus.
Do this by:
• Creating a communications strategy to work alongside your learning strategy, so you can shout about what you’re doing, why, and what you’re doing next.
• Including quotes and narrative stories as well as data as part of your sharing.
• Go wide, sharing and involving HR, business leads, learners, and manag- ers.
• Running marketing-style campaigns about big initiatives, but also as a method of bringing about behavior and performance changes. Keep L&D alive and kicking in people’s minds.
HOW TO DEAL WITH LEARNING DATA
Some training managers may not collect data because they don’t want to know the real results. If it’s not going your way, you may not want to know, right?
But without knowing the truth, L&D managers risk dropping out of sync with modern learning behaviors and ‘losing’ customers. To stay relevant, useful and prove business value, here’s some top tips to dealing with some potential ‘negative’ results.
1. Lack of take-up
Is your learning lacking any engagement? Are your people simply not completing it?
Evaluate your communications strategy and consider a campaign to pitch the bene ts to learners.
2. Low completion rates
Your learners are failing to complete your content. This is may or may not be a problem.
If overall performance of your learners is on the up, then it may not be a problem because learners are simply just taking what they need to improve.
If completion rates are important to you, look closer at the drop off points. Look for incentives – engaging activities, attention grabbers upfront, scores, polls, games – to draw learners in. Also check the content is relevant to your audience – no one wants irrelevant content.
3. Great results that then drop off after a week or so
If results are not sustainable than you may have a one-hit wonder. Sometimes you can’t rely on learners to take a single course and apply it themselves. You should consider building out your strategy to support longer term improvements.
Consider extending it into a blend, going for a micro learning approach, or building it out into a learning campaign with regular email reminders or leaderboards that incentivize.
4. Scores or pass rates running below par
Are scores not meeting your par results? Talk to some learners to nd out their struggles with the questions.
Here are three potentials solutions that might be able to help:
• Make simple edits to the question format
• Add more learning needed to help learners apply it to questions and
• Ask learners to try again – learning from mistakes is a good thing!
5. Short session times
Quick dips in sessions times can be expected, especially on mobile devices, so this in itself isn’t alarming.
Take a look at performance improvements. If they aren’t on the up as expected, dig deeper to nd out if learners short sessions mean they are dropping off because they aren’t engaged, or because they’re busy – and the learning content itself needs to better support short session learning.
If you’re serious about helping to improve performance and supporting and engaging with the employees who need to make that journey, data is a must-have in your L&D tool kit.
It also enables you to tell a story about delivering value—to employees and the business—and shows you’re listening and value input.
Combining data analytics with surveys and conversations gives you a rich source of input to learn from. Add to that powerful collaborative tools that enable you to involve stakeholders in the development process and to easily and quickly share updates and ideas, and you’ll increase your chances of meeting valuable targets.