Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Performance Improvement

The phrase “A Good Thing” crops up a few times on this blog, in the context of “learning is A Good Thing” – it’s even an index item in The Learnforever Book.  And of course, my strapline invites you to learn like you are going to live forever.  Learning is good for you, as an individual, and is good for organisations too, not just because of what you learn, but because of the doors it opens to new learning, and because of the skills you acquire for adaptability, to cope with change, and to handle new situations.

Learning and development practitioners could embellish this argument, sharing the belief that learning is beneficial to everyone, and a worthwhile investment for any organisation, but… (There had to be a but coming, didn’t there?)

Learning is ubiquitous: it happens everywhere, planned or not, and we are increasingly aware of informal learning and social learning.  Organisations have limited resources and need to make some tough choices about what to invest in: planned learning is only one of them, as there are many other competing investments that can drive productivity, profitability and success.

And so typically we look to learning and development to cause performance improvement, which should yield measurable business impact.  And the key to successful L&D is to ensure it directly contributes to performance improvement.

As planned learning usually takes place away from the job, or even on-the-job is often protected from exposure to normal risks and costs, this means ensuring that learning transfers to work.  To put it another way, the knowledge, skill and competence people learn in organised L&D activities need to be applied at work.

This is reflected in Donald Kirkpatrick’s evaluation levels, where his second level is about ensuring knowledge and skill have been learnt, and his third level is about ensuring that knowledge and skill are applied to work.

Dr Ed Holton has identified an academic model of 16 learning transfer factors, based on research in the USA, and there are other models. The essential truth is that no L&D initiative is complete unless it has a built-in process to overcome any barriers to learning transfer and ensure learning transfer actually takes place.

Learning and development are important in life, in almost any context, but in organisations their importance lies in how they are embedded in, and contribute to, performance improvement.  The simple paradigm is that learning and development leads to performance improvement, which in turn leads to business results.

L&D practitioners need to pay more attention to performance improvement.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Why you should join the Learning Evaluation Network

Many people, if they’re honest, will admit that they aren’t doing enough to evaluate their learning and development. Most of us get regular feedback from learners, and can be confident learning interventions are well received; most of us know that learning is a good thing to do; and in many cases there is broad alignment of learning interventions with organisational goals.  But how many of us, hand on heart, can show the value that learning adds, can point to where it makes a difference, and can measure its contribution to business results?

Do you regularly and robustly measure the business impact of your learning and development?  Do you collect and analyse meaningful data about the impact of your learning and development?  Do you learn and apply the best techniques for this?  Do you invest in resource to make this possible?  Are you up-to-date with the latest innovations? Do you have a portion of your L&D budget dedicated to evaluation?  Have you undertaken any specialised evaluation or research training?  Anyone who answers any of these questions “no” is missing out.

The thing is, dedicating scarce time and resources to evaluation can feel like an added burden, an excess cost, even where no external help is bought.  External help may be very valuable, but it may also be very expensive.  And if the organisation’s managers already balk at the demands on them to support learning interventions, how much more will they resist being asked to contribute to evaluation?  These are among the reasons why learning evaluation is frequently neglected.

But the answer is to hand.

What you need is ready access to information, resources, a sense of what others are doing, and the opportunity to ask questions of experts, whenever you need it.  All this and more is provided by the Learning Evaluation Network, and at an affordable price.  So even if you don’t invest in evaluation consultants, or costly processes, or specialised training, there is a minimum you can do to keep abreast of evaluation issues and equip yourself to do better evaluation.

The Learning Evaluation Network is an online community of members with a shared interest in, and experience of, evaluating learning and development in organisations.  Members are drawn from all over the world, and include lots of practising L&D managers, and leading thinkers like Professor Robert Brinkerhoff and Dr Alasdair Rutherford.  The network includes not just connections with other members, but blogs, a Q&A forum, book reviews and recommendations, downloadable resources, a compendium of links to free resources elsewhere, and much more.

Membership is usually £132 (that’s £110 plus VAT in the UK), but you can benefit from an introductory discount for a limited period by quoting promotional code AL421 when you register at http://www.airthrey.com/network/, making the price £118.80 (that’s £99 plus VAT in the UK).  And you can pay by credit card via PayPal.

For further information about network features and benefits, contact info@airthrey.com.

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