Management: The Missing Link in L&D Today by Dave Vance

Despite great progress in so many areas of L&D, there is one area which has not seen much progress. This is the business-like management of the L&D department and L&D programs. Yes, department heads work to implement new LMS’s on time, and program managers and directors work to roll out new programs on time but there is still an opportunity to dramatically improve our management. Let’s look at programs first and then the department as a whole.

At the program level a really good manager would work with the goal owner or sponsor to reach upfront agreement on measures of success for the program like the planned impact on the goal. A really good manager would also work with the goal owner and stakeholders to identify plans or targets for all the key efficiency and effectiveness measures that must be achieved to have the desired impact on the goal. Examples of efficiency measures include number of participants to be put through the program, completions dates for the development or purchase of the content and completion dates for the delivery, and costs. Examples of effectiveness measures include levels 1 (participant reaction, 2 (knowledge check if appropriate), and 3 (application of learned behaviors or knowledge). A really good program manager would also work with the goal owner upfront to identify and reach agreement on roles and responsibilities for both parties, including a robust reinforcement plan to ensure the goal owner’s employees actually apply what they have learned. Today, many program managers do set plans for the number of participants and completion dates. Few, however, set plans for any effectiveness measures and few work with the goal owner to reach agreement on roles and responsibilities, including a good reinforcement plan. Virtually none use monthly reports which show the plan and year-to-date results for each measure and thus are not actively managing their program for success in the same way as their colleagues in sales or manufacturing.

At the department level, a really good department head or Chief Learning Officer would work with the senior leaders in the department to agree on a handful of key efficiency and effectiveness measures to improve for the coming year. Then the team would agree on a plan or target for each as well as an implementation plan for each, including the name of the person responsible (or at least the lead person) and the key action items. Examples of efficiency measures to manage at the department level include number of employees reached by L&D, percentage of courses completed and delivered on time, mix of learning modalities (like reducing the percentage of instructor-led in favor of online, virtual, and performance support), utilization rate (of e-learning suites, instructors or classrooms), and cost. Examples of effectiveness measures to be managed at the department level include level 1 participant and sponsor reaction, level 2 tests, and level 3 applications rates. Both the efficiency and effectiveness measures would be managed at an aggregated level with efficiency measures summed up across the enterprise and effectiveness measures averaged across the enterprise. A really good CLO would use monthly reports to compare year-to-date progress with plan to see where the department is on plan and where it is falling short of plan. A really good department head would use these reports in regularly scheduled monthly meetings to actively manage the department to ensure successful accomplishment of the plans set by the senior department leadership team. Today, very few department heads manage in this disciplined fashion with plans for their key measures, monthly reports which compare progress against plan, and monthly meetings dedicated to just the management of the department where the reports are used to identify where management action must be taken to get back on plan.

In conclusion, there is a great opportunity to improve our management which in turn would enable us to deliver even greater results. This requires getting upfront agreement on the key measures, on the plan for each one, and the actions items required to achieve each plan. For the outcome measures it also requires reaching agreement with the goal owner on mutual roles and responsibilities. Once the year is underway, good management also requires using reports in a regular meeting to identify problem areas and take corrective actions. Our colleagues in other departments have been doing this for a long time and with good reason. Let’s get onboard and manage L&D like we mean

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