Measuring performance is key
As L&D leaders, we’ve long focused on measuring completion rates, engagement, and Net Promoter Score. But it’s important to note that these metrics are only indicators of whether your employee training program is doing well. In reality, they fail to tell you whether the training made a demonstrable difference to how people improved in their roles.
So, what should you measure instead of deciphering if your training program is really working well? The answer is simple: employee performance. Employee performance is the metric that matters most when you showcasing your impact to stakeholders.
Here are 5 ways you can prove the impact of your employee training program through performance-led L&D.
1. Move Away From The “Learning” Focus
While it is satisfying to create learning experiences that our employees love, L&D leaders need to ask themselves the following question: Does the training created today really make a difference to the business and help employees when and where they need it most?
As a strategic business partner, L&D leaders need to impact performance KPIs that matter to the organization. So, to make a true impact, you need to start focusing on your learners’ workflows. This means moving away from those event-based learning experiences where employees have to stop working to complete eLearning or attend a course.
Instead, design for an employee’s daily experience. You will build an understanding of their tasks and processes, which helps them learn in the workflow and impacts their performance. By creating resources or experiences for employees, you and your L&D team can directly impact the performance outcomes of those crucial tasks and processes.
But at the same time, as employees will have many processes and tasks within their workflows, being data-driven rather than focused on what stakeholders think is needed will aid you in identifying the right challenges and opportunities to invest time and money in.
In performance-led L&D, testing and creating value for the business can happen at pace. By failing fast and iterating from what the L&D team learned, you can focus on solving business problems and impacting the most important KPIs.
Speaking of data, our next tip is to do the data analysis up front so that you know if you moved the needle.
2. Do The Analysis Up Front To Know If You Moved The Needle
To truly demonstrate that your performance-led training program is working, you need to show where you started.
You can’t prove impact if you’re starting with a solution instead of a problem. When this happens, you risk not knowing if the intervention had the desired impact. Therefore, it’s critical to illustrate that you understand the problem first by determining your ground zero.
The most effective method L&D leaders should focus on is a performance gap analysis. When you start your investigation, ensure that you include your stakeholders from the get-go, which helps prevent knowledge repetition in your offerings.
Your performance gap analysis can be as simple as a conversation, but you should include how the work is expected to be done, as well as the required results. The aim is to understand the gap between expected performance and the current reality.
To get you started, here are seven questions to ask in your performance gap analysis:
- Who are the main stakeholders involved in the analysis?
- What’s the current state of employee performance across departments?
- How will you capture the knowledge and skills of top performers?
- What content already exists that can be repurposed or updated?
- What data is available to paint a picture of current performance gaps?
- How will you teach novice performers to perform master-level tasks?
- What measures will you take to avoid barriers, and what will you do if the barriers are unavoidable?
Identifying ground zero is critical to your success, as is finding critical points of failure in your organization. That’s why focusing on solving evergreen problems is our third way to prove your training program’s impact.
3. Focus on Solving Evergreen Problems
In performance-led L&D, you need to focus on understanding the requirements and challenges within any role, particularly at the point of work.
In short, you need to identify the evergreen problems. These are performance gaps that cut across the entire organization and are unlikely to go away any time soon. They are those critical points of failure in any operation, such as commonly found in onboarding and manager training.
Identifying these pain points starts by engaging people in your organization, such as business leaders, and finding out what priorities or goals are front-of-mind for them. Your L&D team will start noticing organizational patterns causing performance gaps during this validating process.
Next, you can prioritize and solve evergreen problems by adopting a product management mindset and building business-to-customer offerings designed to impact those evergreen problems.
By marketing these offerings to the organization, you will be able to draw out all the people in that performance gap. Now, you can get the offering to employees and ensure they get the proper training at the right time while constantly gathering feedback to iterate those learning interventions.
Ensuring employees get the proper training they need comes down to timing and relevance. In the next section, we’ll talk about how to engage your Subject Matter Experts in authoring content.
4. Engage Your Subject Matter Experts In Authoring Content
The excellent news about performance-led L&D? It makes engaging with Subject Matter Experts, or SMEs, a lot easier.
The SMEs you really want to enlist will be some of the most in-demand people within your organization. Their time will be limited, and even though they want to help, they will need to see the data that proves a problem needs to be solved in the organization and why their contribution will help overcome that problem.
As a bonus, understanding the data and the problem will lead you to the employees who are already performing and have the experience to help others. And guess what? These are the SMEs you want to enlist in your performance-led L&D practice.
Once you have the right SME, make it quick and easy for them to contribute their expertise. This means offering the right tools to seamlessly build courses, share valuable knowledge, and iterate to improve learning experiences over time. This makes it easier for your teams to leverage internal expertise and upskill from within.
Finally, let’s talk about how to show you’ve moved the needle on employee performance.
5. Prove Your Impact As A Strategic Business Partner
As we’ve proposed, proving your impact as a strategic business partner starts by focusing on employee performance—the metric that matters.
Impacting performance is the reason why L&D should exist. The best way to show that you are impacting the performance gap you identified is by showing that employees are performing with a new level of skill and ability than before your intervention. Everything else, such as engagement levels or total hours of training delivered, is just an indicator.
For example, if employees are expected to code, then the learning intervention’s success is that they can code at the desired level. Impacting performance differs from how engaging the intervention aimed at training the coding was, and it bears repeating, more crucial in proving that your trainings are making a positive difference.
Being an impactful strategic business partner comes down to showing your stakeholders that you are holding yourself accountable for the metrics that matter to them. If you understand what keeps them up at night, you will have a greater chance of moving the needle and increasing the impact and quality of your learning interventions.
Employee Performance: The Metric That Matters
Employee performance is the one metric that shows your training program has a demonstrable difference in how people have improved in their roles.
By adopting a mindset of performance-led L&D, you can:
- Impact performance KPIs that matter to the organization by understanding employees’ workflow.
- Give employees learning interventions when and where they need them by identifying evergreen problems through a performance gap analysis.
- Show SMEs that the problem is worth solving and make enlisting them easier.
- Demonstrate how employees are performing with a new level of skill and ability.
- Find a problem first and then design a solution, not the other way around.