Change the Conversation about Funding Measurement

The L&D profession continues to struggle to get budget and attention for more robust measurement strategies. Learning professionals, particularly those with measurement or analytics responsibilities, appreciate the value of measurement and know that further budget would be well spent but often cannot convince senior leaders in learning to make the investment, let alone senior leaders outside learning. So, how do we make the case for more resources?

My advice is that we take a stealth approach. While some senior leaders will readily see the reason for more robust measurement, in my experience most will not. Senior leaders always have many more requests for budget and staff than they can grant, and typically measurement by itself doesn’t rise to the top of the priority list. And, since you’re already providing learning, measurement seems like an add-on or a ‘nice to have,’ but not something that is essential. This is especially true if most of the measurement currently being done is simply to report activity or historical results.

The alternative is to change the conversation. Instead of talking about measurement, talk about what will be required to deliver the planned results from the learning initiative. In other words—talk about management rather than measurement. Of course, you cannot manage without measures, so management will be the trojan horse that gets in measurement. This approach makes measurement the means to the end. It also focuses on the most important purpose or use of measurement which is to manage.

How would this work? Start with programs aligned to your organization’s key goals or needs. For these initiatives you need to partner closely with the goal owner, like the head of sales or manufacturing. Both parties need to agree on program specifics like learning objectives, target audience, and completion date. Most importantly, they need to agree on mutual expectations for the impact of the learning, which may be the isolated impact of the Phillip’s approach or the more subjective expectation of the Kirkpatrick approach.

In either case, both parties will need to agree on all the relevant measures and their targets that are required to deliver the planned impact. These measures would include efficiency measures like number of participants, completion rate, completion date, and cost as well as effectiveness measures like participant reaction, learning, and application rate. These measures will have to be managed to plan the development, delivery, reinforcement, and impact stages in order to deliver the ultimate measure, which is impact. (ex. The program will have to be completed by all participants by April 30 with a 90 percent initial pass rate a 90-day application rate of 85%.)

Notice that you now have a robust measurement strategy which is an integral part of the management for this initiative. In fact, you will not be able to meet expectations without it and consequently you should refuse to do the learning if a senior leader suggests stripping out the measurement. However, since measurement was not presented separately (no budget or staff identified for it, simply part of the plan), the whole issue of stripping it out is not likely to come up. You can follow the same approach for other learning initiatives including those not directly aligned to the goals of the organization. In every case, you should identify some measure of success and should identify the relevant measures and the targets required to deliver the success.

This is the stealth approach—treat measurement as a means to the end—embed measurement in all key initiatives by getting agreement with goal owners and senior leaders upfront on the planned outcome and on targets for all the relevant efficiency and effectiveness measures. In addition to measures to ensure expectations are met, you may need to employ measurement and analytics upfront to better understand the issue, optimum learning solution, or modality. Again, measurement will be integrated into the management of the initiative. It will not be a stand-alone item and will not be presented as such.

You may already have a dedicated measurement group to serve as an integral support staff; however, every program manager needs to work with goal owners and leaders to agree on a measure of success and the relevant efficiency and effectiveness measures and their targets. They need to be comfortable with measurement. If you want to expand your measurement efforts, look for ways to do this as part of key programs and initiatives (the end) rather than just as expanding your measurement group (the means).

In conclusion, try changing the conversation from measurement (which senior leaders generally do not understand or value) to measurement or to help you with your measurement strategy. They really don’t care. Instead, engage them to manage their program to deliver planned results which they do care about and which, by necessity, will include measures. Try this approach and see how it works for you.


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