Sunday, 20 April 2008

The Value of Learning (HRD 2008)

At last week's HRD conference I was invited to provide a brief case study in support of the presentation on 'The Value of Learning' given by Martyn Sloman of CIPD.

Last year CIPD, in partnership with the University of Portsmouth, undertook a focused project on 'the value of learning'. This resulted in several tools being created - most notably 'Instrument 3: Establishing the most relevant appropach for your organisation'.

The tool defined four approaches to assessing the learning value contribution:

  • Learning function efficiency measures
  • Key performance indicators & benchmark measures
  • Return on investment measures
  • Return on expectations measures

My key points - from our experiences in introducing a global 'bite-size' training curriculum (of 90 minute skill-boosters) - included:

  • The tool encourages a systemic, balanced-scorecard approach to evaluating (and more importantly - improving) the value of learning. This ensures consideration of both factors that are important in managing key stakeholders, and those used internally within the L&D team to promote continuous improvement.
  • For Learning Function Efficiency measures: we have found it helpful to critically appraise the tutor:delegate ratio of courses ... so for 'skill boosters' running classes with a 1:20 ratio (vs. longer classes with a typical 1:12 ratio). Similarly, working in a global organisation seeking to 'leverage scale' ... there is significant benefits to be negotiated via volume discounts on unit costs (where training classes are provided by an external partner).
  • For Key Performance Indicators: in my experience this is a difficult area to establish 'quantifiable' measures directly correlated with L&D activities - however it does drive consideration of whether the L&D approach is supportive of an appropriate psychological contract with employees. 'Bite Size' classes have proved a popular format in helping colleagues reconcile the tension between wanting to invest in class-based self-development, but also needing to stay focused on delivering on current performance goals.
  • For Return on Investment measures: I'd suggest that it is probably more rewarding to focus on understanding the extremes (ie why the same class will be highly impactful for some delegates, but not for other colleagues), rather than just measure the 'average' return achieved. Through understanding the enablers & barriers for achieving high business impact attributed to the training class provided, L&D can then act to help more colleagues get more from the course.
  • For Return on Expectations measures: As highlighted by CIPD, this is probably the most important of the four types of measures. A colleague of mine introduced me to the phrase 'cheque-book & calendar' - to reflect the tangible signs of senior management support. Hence the fact that senior managers have funded & hosted additional 'bite-size' classes within team and focus-week events (ie outside of the core L&D curriculum) can be seen as a clear sign that there is 'satisfaction' with the value of these courses.


From past articles on this blog on L&D metrics - also see: Reflections on ASTD 2007, part #2


PS - HRD was a great opportunity to network with 'old friend' and meet fellow L&D professionals. More reflections on HRD in coming weeks !