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3 Fundamental Questions that Earn L&D a Seat at the Table

business objectives corporate training instructional design Aug 08, 2023

It’s probably no surprise to you, but investing in employees pays off.

Research shows the more a company invests toward developing employees, the higher its stock value goes the following year (Devalekar). Learning opportunities result in higher levels of employee promotion, retention, satisfaction, skills and knowledge, and this translates to better organizational performance.

Yet how often as a learning professional, are you excluded from a seat at the table with senior leaders to identify, beyond smiley sheets, ROI or ROE that are linked to the organization’s key strategic and business objectives?

Demonstrating a real, bottom-line, return on investment remains a continual challenge for those of us in Learning and Development.

Here's 3 fundamental questions to help you get that seat at the table:

1.  What are the critical behaviors that lead to desired results?

In other words, what behaviors or actions must the employee demonstrate for the organization to achieve its goals and complete its mission?

At this stage, get an agreement on what criteria will be used to evaluate your training program or talent development initiative. Conversations with senior include questions such as, “What does success look like for this learning initiative?” and “What connections will be made to measure ROI?”

You can then determine how these behaviors impact the mission and goals of the organization. In other words, how will people who engage in these behaviors benefit the organization as a whole?

For example, if you are designing an executive leadership development program, what will you measure as your proof of concept? Turn-over? Retention rates? Employee engagement survey scores?

2. What baseline numbers or trends are we currently using to measure those data points?

Typically, at this point, when consulting with organizations on an L&D strategy, I am met with blank stares. But as with any adoption life-cycle, it’s better to arrive late to this measurement party… then not at all.

If part of the evaluation of your program will be before and after measurements, baseline numbers can be documented at this time so that you can begin the trending process. For example, if you have a goal to improve knowledge sharing in your sales teams, a baseline assessment among participants from each department can occur before the program and again at appropriate intervals afterward (three months, six months, and one year) to determine the level of improvement.

3. What are the desired end results of this learning initiative?

While this should be standard practice, many learning professionals begin the design and development phases without a clear vision of what is expected or what qualifies as a successful result for the program.

The challenge is how to capture the less tangible benefits of learning. Because leadership programs often focus on the development of skills such as emotional intelligence, accountability, innovation, communication, conflict management, creative thinking, and leading change, the intangible benefits are more difficult to measure using conventional metrics, such as revenue generation or cost-savings

Ultimately, if learning is occurring, behaviors should be changing. If not – there will not be a return on investment.

By attaching desired behaviors to organizational missions and goals, you will be able to demonstrate the value of a specific program. As behaviors change, you will also have mechanisms in place that will demonstrate the return of investment for that program.

These three fundamental questions should happen at the beginning of any proposed learning initiative (e.g. Sententia Level 1 Gamification Strategy Design begins this process within the first six stepping stones of our Gamified Learning Development Map), well before the learning design and delivery occurs. In fact, it should begin at the needs assessment stage, as the organization explores existing and anticipated skills gaps and identifies ways to close those gaps.

In the end, fundamentals are the building blocks of fun. And helping your organization to achieve their strategic objectives... well, what could be more fun than that?!

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