The Critical Role of Leaders in L&D Measurement

I was talking with a colleague who had been asked to create a list of metrics for their organization to use. I asked if the leader had provided context or shared areas of interest or perhaps areas of concern where metrics would be important to better understand and manage the issue. They said no, the leader just wanted a list of metrics. Apparently, any list would do.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. Leaders know they should have some measures and so they ask the measurement or analytics team to come up with a list or perhaps even a complete measurement strategy. In this case, the leader is not taking ownership for measurement and may not understand the critical role they play in the measurement and reporting process.

Ideally, measurement should be an extension and enabler of a leader’s management strategy. They should view measurement as essential to their success and champion it within the organization. As the CLO for Caterpillar, I could not succeed without measures and by extension, none of our efforts to improve learning and deliver value could succeed without measurement. We had to know our existing baseline to determine where improvement was necessary. Once we put plans in place, we had to measure monthly to know if we were on track to deliver the promised results by year-end. I literally could not manage without data.

A leader who is committed to running learning with business discipline will understand this. There are, however, good leaders who do not understand their role in measurement. They think the measurement strategy should be delegated to the subject matter experts—namely, the staff with experience in measurement and analytics. In these situations, staff will need to help their leader understand their important role in selecting measures and creating a measurement and reporting strategy. hopefully, the leaders will be willing to listen.

In addition to conveying how important measurement is, a good leader will provide direction in measurement selection and reporting. A good leader will share the measures of most interest to them or at least share their area of concern or focus so the measurement analyst can recommend appropriate measures. A good leader will also share the reason to measure which will dictate the type of report to use. The measures may be used simply to inform (for example, a number of courses or participants) but may also be used to monitor to ensure measures remain within acceptable bounds (for example, ensure participant reaction remains above 80% favorable). The leader must provide direction by identifying the most important measures and setting the thresholds for monitoring.

Leaders may also want to measure to manage programs or initiatives to a successful conclusion (for example, reaching 90% of the employees with learning or improving the application rate for key programs to 80%). This takes a special kind of report. Here again, leaders will play an integral role by setting plans or targets for all the key measures. They should not delegate this very important task to measurement analysts. Last, leaders may want to know how good a program was (for example, did it have an impact and was it worth doing?). This also requires a special type of report, and the leader will play an important role in reaching an agreement with goal owners on plans for key measures at the start of the program.

In conclusion, leaders need measures to do their jobs and consequently, leaders must be heavily involved in the creation of a measurement and reporting strategy. Put differently, leaders are the most important users of the measures so they must be involved in the measurement strategy from the beginning and they must own it.

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