Measurement Demystified: Creating Your L&D Measurement, Analytics, and Reporting Strategy

As some of you may be aware, the title of this blog is the name of the book Peggy Parskey and I recently published with ATD. It is the culmination of all our work since 2010 to create a framework and a set of standards and best practices to make it easier for L&D professionals to create a measurement and reporting strategy. It is also the result of input, feedback, and suggestions from the thousands of professionals who attended our webinars, workshops, and conferences. So, in essence—the book is a joint effort by everyone to advance the profession.

For those unaware of the backstory of the book, here’s a little history…

It all began in September 2010 at a CLO Symposium networking event. Kent Barnett, at the time CEO of Knowledge Advisors, and Tamar Elkeles, at the time VP of Organizational Learning for Qualcomm, were discussing the state of our profession. They both agreed that the time had come for measurement and reporting standards— similar to what accountants have in the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Accountants go to university and learn about the four types of measures (income, expense, assets, and liabilities), the specific measures in each category, how to calculate the value for each measure, and what to do with the measure once they have its value (i.e., in what report it should be included and how it should be used). They wondered if a similar framework would benefit L&D.

Kent and Tamar set forth to form an advisory council to pursue their vision and ideas. They engaged leading practitioners as well as thought leaders in the field, about 28 in all. They also recruited both Peggy Parksey and me to lead the effort. We produced a draft document in early 2011, which would end up going through over 20 iterations as we incorporated feedback from the council and others. The final document was completed later in 2011, and we then began to expand the principles to all areas of HR, which was completed in 2012. The standards were named Talent Development Reporting Principles (TDRp). Similar to GAAP, TDRp provides a framework for measurement and reporting for L&D.

By mid-2012, the foundational work was complete, and TDRp needed a home. We established the Center for Talent Reporting (CTR) as a 501c(6) nonprofit organization in August of 2012 to continue to develop and promote the principles of TDRp. We hosted our first conference and our first workshops the following year. We also started our monthly webinars and blogs. And we never turned down an opportunity to speak and share TDRp with others.

It’s hard to believe that we have been at this for ten years. We’ve learned a lot along the way, so we captured all of our learnings in the book, Measurement Demystified: Creating Your L&D Measurement, Analytics, and Reporting Strategy. It is our intention that the book reinforces the standards of the TDRp framework and will do for the L&D profession that GAPP has done for accounting, which is to provide a common language; categories, names and definitions of measures; standard reports; and guidance on what to measure and how to report.

The TDRP framework begins with four broad reasons to measure: inform, monitor, evaluate, and manage.  There are many more detailed reasons to measure, but we believe a framework should have no more than five elements, or it becomes too difficult to remember and use. These four categories make it easier for us to have discussions about the reasons to measure, which is the starting point for any measurement strategy.

TDRp recommends three categories for measures. Historically, practitioners had divided measures into efficiency and effectiveness buckets which is what I did when I worked at Caterpillar. However, research and practice showed the need for a third category, not because of the number of measures in it but because of its importance. The third type of measure is “outcome,” which means the results or impact from the learning on the organization’s goals. This is the type of measure CEOs want to see the most, and yet it is seldom reported. This is the measure required to make the business case for learning.

Lastly, TDRp identifies five types of reports which contain the measures. Moreover, TDRp ties the type of report to the reason for measuring, which provides much-needed guidance for practitioners. Scorecards and dashboards are great for informing and can also be used for monitoring if thresholds are included. Program evaluation and custom analysis reports are ideal for sharing the results of a program or research. Management reports are the fifth type, and these have a special format to help leaders manage programs and initiatives to deliver planned results. They come in three varieties depending on the user and the need, but all have the same format, just like the basic accounting reports do.

It is our sincere hope that the TDRp framework and the guidance in Measurement Demystified will help the profession advance. Some are just beginning and should benefit significantly from a framework and guidance on how to select measures and reports. Others are further along and can benefit from the definitions of over 120 measures and the advanced report formats. Even experts may benefit from the detailed discussion of how to create plan numbers, use year-to-date results, and create forecasts.

And we are not done yet. We just submitted our draft manuscript for Measurement Demystified: The Field Guide to ATD for publication this December. We provide over 100 exercises to improve your understanding of the concepts and to give you practice in applying them. Hopefully, the Field Guide will significantly increase your skill level and your confidence, enabling you to create a much more robust measurement and reporting strategy.

We look forward to your continued engagement and feedback.

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