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Is Your Learning Program Really Improving Workplace Performance?

Written on Feb 16, 2017 4:38:51 PM, by Ilie Ghiciuc

Learning is everywhere these days. We find it in books, in apps, on websites, in computer programs, and at our jobs. Most people agree that learning is crucial to helping employees improve and helping the business increase its profits.

But with such a large push for learning, how can you tell if your investment in learning is actually improving workplace performance?

Also read: Proving Learning Value Is Hard But Not Impossible

Learning is supposed to help employees improve their effectiveness, produce better work, and waste less time. They can also be better prepared for whatever might happen in the future.

The problem arises when you try to measure the impact of learning on ROI and performance. Many companies do not make the proper connections between their learning programs and their business initiatives. Others do not collect data long enough to see if there is a long-term impact. 

Is Learning the Problem?

Some companies just jump to learning when they feel that their employees are underperforming. But learning will not make a huge impact on performance if it is not the best solution.

When deciding on whether or not to start a learning program, it can be important to ask the following questions:

● What are employees doing or not doing that impacts performance?
● Do employees know how to make changes?
● Have they had enough time to make changes?
● What are the goals of the learning program?
● How can program success be measured?

Asking these questions will help you decide if a learning program has the potential to solve the issue of performance in each individual case. Some areas of the job may require more learning to increase performance, while others may require a different management style or work environment.

The only way to address underperformance is to first see what the causes are. Learning programs cannot fix every issue.

From Learning to Coaching

Many companies rely solely on a learning program and provide limited opportunity for follow-up learning or practice. In a recent study by the Brandon Hall Group, researchers found that while 64% of business leaders stated that coaching from managers was one of the greatest factors in performance, only 11% of managers were trained to be competent coaches.

If you want to see long-term workplace improvements, you need to follow-up learning with coaching and invest in making managers effective coaches.

Also read: Why Learning And Engagement Are Inseparable

Measuring Success

The workplace is a complex place. There are rarely direct cause and effect relationships between two variables. You cannot test employees like they would human subjects in a lab experiment. So, how do you try to predict what works and what doesn’t? How can you try to find any correlation between learning initiatives and changes in the workplace?

Accurately measuring the impact of a learning program on workplace performance can be difficult, but there are some things you can do to get some helpful data.

While it may not be an exact science, the best way to try to find relationships between learning and performance is to align learning programs with business outcomes. Then, you can measure changes in KPIs that are related to learning and performance.

As part of the measurement process, you need to make sure there are assessments before and after the training, assessments at specific intervals after the training has ended, and feedback from others related to workplace performance. This data can give you the best insight into how learning is impacting workplace performance.

Creating a Connection

Finding connections between workplace performance and learning may seem elusive, but here are some actionable tips to help you improve your ability to see the connection between the two:

  • Create long term and short term business initiatives. Invest in learning programs that are linked to business outcomes. KPIs can be tied to these initiatives to see how far in the future learning impacts performance.
  • Train coaches who can help link training to job performance. Managers who are trained as coaches can help employees connect their learning to their jobs long after the learning program is over.
  • Use long-term methods of measuring training effectiveness. As with many changes, the effects are not evident in the short term as much as they are over the long term.
  • Using the 70-20-10 rule, it is estimated that about 70% of learning comes from experience. To maximize performance, companies can use goal setting, longer assignments, and hands-on learning projects.
  • Train internal trainers to provide excellent learning programs. Some employees may be excellent at their jobs but may have difficulty conveying their expertise to others.
  • Find the best time and manner of delivering information. Not all employees learn the same way and at the same time. Learning about employees and how they learn will create a better connection between the employee and the information.

While the measurement of your learning program is not an exact science, there are many ways to determine if you are investing your time and money wisely.

Using the strategies here you will be on your way to making sure that your learning program really is improving workplace performance. 

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Ilie Ghiciuc
I've been an entrepreneur for the past 10+ years building great software companies together with fantastic teams. I like to spend most of my free time reading :)