By Duncan Barrett is Head of Product Development at 5App
An organisation’s ability to learn – marked by a culture that supports high performing learning as well as switched on learners – is core to its success in responding faster to changing market conditions. Not to mention improving productivity and developing a better qualified workforce, according to Emerald Works. Their latest research also reveals a direct link between learning and your likelihood to innovate, dominate, or be left behind.
Our own Digital Impact Survey Report backs this up, showing that learning has an impact on a whole range of areas including employee engagement and performance.
So, how can business leaders ensure that their investment in learning has the desired impact?
Three learning metrics to drive performance
The key to measuring impact is to focus on the difference you would expect to see in performance as a result of investing in a learning intervention. Metrics that focus on the learning experience will tell you what employees thought of the experience. That might not equate to improved performance. So, have a laser focus on the performance improvement you are looking to see and work back from there.
- Learning metric #1 Business outcome
This is clearly not a learning metric, but that’s the point. Learning has to be aligned with business goals and outcomes if it is to have impact. This marks a significant change for learning teams and should be the main focus for senior leaders in the organisation.
There is another important reason to focus on performance outcomes rather than learning outcomes. If you focus on learning outcomes you identify what someone has learned. This assumes that learning was the solution to the problem. If you focus on performance improvement then the very process of understanding what is hampering performance will help identify the solution – and that may not be a learning solution. Employee performance, for example, can be affected by a whole host of factors that are internal and external to the organisation. A change in working hours might be the solution to a performance problem rather than a learning solution, for example.
So, focus on the performance improvement you want to see, establish the interventions that will help deliver that improvement and monitor their effectiveness. This will align learning with business goals.
- Learning metric #2 Employee engagement
When we ran our Digital Impact Survey at the start of the year we found that the biggest impact of digital learning initiatives was improved employee engagement followed by greater organizational communication.
These measures of employee engagement show how connected workers are to the organisation, which at times of accelerating change, turbulence and distributed working are becoming increasingly business critical.
Employee engagement is based on listening to, and understanding, the needs of your workers. Helping them to overcome challenges in their work will drive performance, which is why employee engagement is such an important metric for businesses and learning teams.
- Learning metric #3 Skills
Skills gaps are a huge challenge for all employers. Research from The Open University shows organisations spent £6.6 billion to plug short term gaps in 2020, up from £4.4 billion in 2019. Other stats that show the scale of the skills crisis facing UK businesses include:
— 56% of UK organisations continue to experience skills shortages
— 55% of organisations struggle to find new employees with the right amount of experience – down from 62% in 2019
— 61% organisations say that they are not as agile as they need to be because of shortfalls in their skills
Take a look at your own organisation and consider what impact a skills deficit is having on performance. With organisations transitioning to digital operating models and developing new, digital-first-products and services there is a growing need for new skills. Without these skills businesses will not be able to adapt and grow.
Ironically, in the UK the talent pool is getting bigger as unemployment rises but the skills gaps remain. This shows that plugging skills gaps is now an employer’s priority. People with in-demand skills are either hard to find or costly to hire, which means that reskilling and upskilling is now an imperative for employers.
By measuring the impact of skills gaps, employers can start to build a reskilling and upskilling strategy that will help improve organisational performance. As with the other learning metrics we have discussed here, you will need to be clear on the performance improvements you would expect to see from your skills investment and track them against your reskilling and upskilling initiatives.
Learning metrics have tended to measure learning. That’s no longer enough for businesses that are looking to adapt at speed. Successful leaders need to focus on organizational and individual performance and tracking the measures that will show improvements. The big shift here is to start with performance outcomes, not learning.