Despite the prevailing rhetoric for the Learning & Development function to be “data driven”, data for the purposes of evaluating what we do is notoriously hard to come by.
Typically we collect feedback from happy sheets (which I prefer to call unhappy sheets) and confirm learning outcomes via some form of assessment.
In my experience, however, behavioural change is reported much less often, while anything to do with business metrics even less so. While I recognise multiple reasons for the latter in particular, one of them is simply the difficulty we mere mortals have in accessing the numbers.
Which has been a long-standing mystery to me. We’re all on the same team, so why am I denied the visibility of the information I need to do my job?
I’ve always suspected the root cause is a combination of human foibles (pride, fear, territoriality), substandard technology (exacerbated by policy) and a lack of skill or will to use the technology even when it is available.
Notwithstanding these ever-present problems, it’s been dawning on me that the biggest blocker to our ability to work with the numbers is the fact that, actually, it’s not our job.
Consider a bank that discovers a major pain point among its customers is the long turnaround time on their home loan applications. To accelerate throughput and thus improve the customer experience, the C-suite makes a strategic decision to invest in an AI-assisted processing platform.
I contend the following:
- It’s the job of the implementation team to ensure the platform is implemented properly.
- It’s the job of the L&D team to build the employees’ capability to use it.
- It’s the job of the service manager to report the turnaround times.
- It’s the job of the CX researchers to measure the customer experience.
- It’s the job of the C-suite to justify their strategy.
In this light, it’s clear why we L&D folks have so much trouble trying to do the other things on the list that don’t mention us. Not only are we not expected to do them, but those who are don’t want us to do them.
In short, we shouldn’t be doing them.
At this juncture I wish to caution against conflating learning & development with performance consulting.
Yes, learning & development is a driver of performance, and an L&D specialist may be an integral member of a performance centre, but I urge anyone who’s endeavouring to rebrand their role as such to heed my caveat.
My point here is that if you are responsible for learning & development, be responsible for it; and let those who are responsible for performance be responsible for it.
Having said that, there is plenty we should be doing within the bounds of our role to maximise the performance of the business. Ensuring our learning objectives are action oriented and their assessment authentic are two that spring to mind.
And I don’t wish to breathe air into the juvenile petulance that the phrase “not my job” can entail. On the contrary, we should be collaborating with our colleagues on activities related to our remit – for example training needs analysis, engineering the right environmental conditions for transfer, and even Level 4 evaluation – to achieve win-win outcomes.
But do it with them, not for them, and don’t let them offload their accountability for it being done. If they don’t wish to collaborate, so be it.
Essentially it boils down to Return on Expectation (ROE). In our quest to justify the Return on Investment (ROI) of our own service offering, we need to be mindful of what it is our financiers consider that service to be.
Anything beyond that is an inefficient use of our time and expertise.