Options available to the L&D manager have changed substantially in the last 15 years.
On the formal learning side, traditional classroom training has transitioned to online e-learning and further into blended delivery modes. Technology has moved from overhead projectors to PowerPoint displays and onward to Web-based, multiplayer simulations and trusted knowledge domains. More importantly, the informal learning universe has expended substantially. Web 2.0 has enabled self-directed and social learning at any time and any place with mobile devices.
The new blended learning combines both formal and informal learning. In their book, The Career Architect Development Planner, Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger describe the 70:20:10 approach to learning. The 70:20:10 model emphasizes that formal learning is only a small portion (10 percent) of the learning that makes an organization effective. On the other hand, informal learning consists of two parts: 70 percent on-the-job experiences, tasks and problem solving, and 20 percent coaching feedback and examples.
Self-directed learning abandons the traditional “push” environment where learning is doled out by the organization according to a set curriculum at a pre-specified moment in time. Instead, learners embrace a “pull” environment, which is facilitated by technologies like on-demand e-learning, Web portals and mobile devices; and they pull what they need at the precise moment in time that they need it. The on-demand availability of knowledge entirely transforms the capabilities and readiness of an organization, because employees solve their own problems (and client issues) at precisely the moment of need.
The new learning environment blurs the lines between work and learning. The new approach integrates learning into work using a variety of tools and processes such as job aids, coaching, social learning, knowledge portals, stretch assignments and performance-support systems.
As learning modalities change, so do learning measurement techniques.
Dr. Donald Kirkpatrick and Dr. Jack Phillips offer viable methods for assessing the impact of formal training interventions on learning, application and individual performance. In the traditional evaluation model, measurement revolves around the individual and the learning intervention. The learner provides feedback about the course, and then indicates whether training will have an impact on performance. A follow-up evaluation can confirm training’s impact on performance.
KnowledgeAdvisors offers a scalable evaluation system called “Metrics That Matter,” which is capable of measuring both formal and informal learning.
Knowledge and skill acquisition are no longer limited to formal learning events. The universe of learning now has limitless possibilities. In an informal learning environment, learning happens opportunistically at any moment and in a variety of ways. (See “Measuring Learning 2.0 for Impact” in Elearning! magazine or KnowledgeAdvisors for more information.)
The performance management approach focuses on measuring performance at a macro-level — at the level where data shows up in scorecards and dashboards — as opposed to the micro-level of post-course assessments. It does not matter whether an individual, team or group gained knowledge and skills from corporate training, on-the-job experience, coaching, team participation or university education. The performance management approach simply focuses on whether individuals have access to the resources they need to perform the task at the optimum level. From whence they pull the knowledge and skills is irrelevant; the only point that is relevant is whether their source can be improved in any way.
The two critical measurable aspects of performance are:
1) Capability — the readiness of an individual or group to perform the work;
2) Capacity — the availability of individuals or groups within the organization to accomplish the work.
In the performance management approach, if an individual or group is capable, but not available, the organization does not have the capacity to perform the work. When an organization has capable people resources that are available to do the work, it is ready to achieve its business goals. In this way, the performance management approach combines readiness and workforce planning. Toward that end, organizational systems are required to measure, monitor and manage resources.
The Learning & Performance Institute (LPI) describes the confluence of talent and performance management as the “sweet spot” for organizational performance.
As L&D managers use more multichannel deployment approaches, measurement methods will also need to adapt. The migration toward Learning 2.0 means that formal “push” learning will be less prevalent and informal “pull” learning will rise. Measurement practices must adapt to these changes.
In the long run, performance is the key. L&D will benefit if it can use either or both approaches to show how L&D supports individual performance, aligns with business goals and improves organizational performance. In this way, L&D becomes an agent of change as opposed to a business cost center.
—The authors: Dr. John R. Mattox is director of research for KnowledgeAdvisors, and Alan Bellinger is executive consultant for the Learning & Performance Institute.