“Would you like fries with that?”
Most organizations today have mastered some level of formal training measurement, if not currently keenly aware of the fact that what is not measured cannot be effectively managed, as Robert Kaplan is often quoted, “…and if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.” The LMS has served as the workhorse, collecting and providing data on learner interaction with learning assets served via the LMS using AICC and SCORM protocols. But as we’ve seen in previous articles in this series (such as The Decline and Fall of SCORM and Why You Should Care) the limitations of the LMS are causing organizations to create custom portals and reports to close the gap. Others are adding a new technology to their learning architecture.
Today’s L&D professionals are responsible for accounting for learning that occurs outside that which is traditionally delivered and managed by the LMS. This learning occurs through peer-to-peer interaction and knowledge sharing, coaching and mentoring, self-directed learning, and social experiences. As we’ve seen, incorporating these avenues of learning as much as possible directly into a digital learning platform is ideal.
L&D should also feel the responsibility to the business to also measure what we consider intangibles, such as teamwork, leadership and communication. These hallmarks of an engaged workforce collectively increase company operational income earnings per share year over year. These high-performance companies are better at setting clear goals and objectives, empowering employees and improving processes. They have a more effective performance evaluation process that is part an ongoing performance dialogue with managers as well as strong working relationships that promote collaboration and innovation. (1) Low marks in the areas of leadership, communication and teamwork indicate employee disengagement. If businesses are not in control of these organizational drivers, financial ramifications in the areas of talent acquisition, retention and absenteeism and presenteeism are huge. (2)
So, if the LMS is not meeting the need for true business impact of informal learning experiences and intangibles, how do we close the gap? There are several tools gaining popularity that help businesses make well-informed decisions about learning and engagement in the organization. Here are just a few.
Learning Record Stores and Experience API
Learning Record Stores (LRSs) use xAPI (often considered SCORM’s successor) to capture learning that often occurs outside formal learning events such as eLearning and classroom training. xAPI is a simple, small footprint way to store and retrieve records about learners and share these data across platforms. These records are called activity statements and can be captured in a consistent format from any number of sources. An xAPI activity statement captures experiences in a "who did what" format: The actor (who did it), a verb (what was done), a direct object (what it was done to) and a variety of contextual data, including score, rating, language, and almost anything else you want to track. Some learning experiences are tracked with one activity statement others can use dozens of activity statements or more. Much has been written about xAPI so I won’t go into greater detail here. If you’d like to learn more, I’ve added resources at the end of this article (3).
Third-Party Learning Analytics Solutions
L&D teams are turning to learning analytics systems to determine the quality of their learning programs and align them to business objectives. While these tools allow for the measurement of learning content effectiveness and quality and identify areas of improvement, they also provide learners with personalized feedback for improved performance and enable them to connect their learning to company objectives. Some solution providers such as Watershed, combine an LRS with a learning analytics system.
HR and Workforce Analytics Systems
HR/workforce analytics systems apply advanced statistical models to inspect literally hundreds of data elements to detect their relationships and effects on specific business results. These solutions help business leaders develop awareness of the impact of “intangibles” such as employee success, satisfaction, communication, leadership, and teamwork. As mentioned earlier, these intangibles impact engagement, a critical component for thriving organizations. When the learning organization is closely aligned with HR and workforce analytics, they can more closely align learning goals and offerings with business segment needs and objectives.
Learning Engagement Platforms
As we’ve seen, the research consistently shows that most learning happens outside formal learning events; that informal and social interaction play a large role in employee satisfaction and engagement; and employee engagement makes or breaks a company’s ability to effectively recruit and retain talent and decrease cost-draining absenteeism and presenteeism. Enter the learning engagement platform (LEP) like 360Learning, that uniquely identifies and empowers learning leaders who actively engage in the knowledge economy via peer-to-peer and social interactions thereby dramatically increasing learning interactions and learner engagement rates.
A Holistic Approach to Measuring Informal Learning
Individuals are woke to the fact that the ability to prove their skills is key in their employability, as well as their career and personal growth and satisfaction. Many are proactively seeking knowledge- and performance-based credentials outside their employer’s offerings. Providers such as Udacity, Coursera, Udemy, and of course LinkedIn Learning / Lynda.com offer free or low-cost and engaging learning that is relevant and immediately valuable. Other learning platforms like Degreed.com offer individuals the ability to customize learning paths with their extensive library of curated content. With their Skill Certification, employees can certify any skill they have, at any level, regardless of where they got them. Companies frequently partner with third-party content providers to both engage employees and eliminate the cost of custom content development. Many providers can link to the company’s internal architecture so external and internal data can be combined for a broader view of employee knowledge and skill.
Combining a company’s current learning measurement capabilities such as HCM and LMS outputs with a LEP or one or more of the above platforms and providers enable the L&D function to provide clear, concise and compelling data to business leaders when it comes to informal learning streams. Metrics that can be captured include learner engagement, learner satisfaction, transactional data, enhanced learning culture, innovation, collaboration, productivity, performance application, and much more.
A Must-do: Consider Learning and the Role of the Learning Professional More Broadly
The responsibility for learning no longer lies solely with the L&D team. It has expanded to learning leaders in the corporation and proactive individuals keen to keep their skills and knowledge fresh and relevant. The responsibility to connect learning resources with business objectives does belong to the L&D function, but it must be in partnership with HR professionals, business leaders, and often third-party solution providers. No matter the size or maturity of your company and your L&D function, there are steps you can take to improve learning, learner engagement, and improve the organization’s business outcomes.
What is your greatest challenge in measuring informal learning and critical intangibles?
Previous articles in this series: