Measuring and evaluating learning has earned a place among the critical issues in the learning and development and performance improvement fields. For decades, this topic has been on conference agendas and discussed at professional meeting. Journals and newsletters regularly embrace the concept, dedicating increased print space to it. Professional organisations have been created to exchange information on measurement and evaluation, and more than twenty-five books provide significant coverage of the topic. Even top executives have an increased appetite for evaluation data.
Although interest in the topic has heightened and much progress has been made, it is still an issue that challenges even the most sophisticated and progressive learning and development departments. While some professionals argue that having a successful evaluation process is difficult, others are quietly and deliberately implementing effective evaluation systems. The latter group has gained tremendous support from the senior management team and has made much progress. Regardless of the position taken on the issue, the reasons for measurement and evaluation are intensifying. Almost all learning and performance improvement professionals share a concern that they must show the results of learning investments. Otherwise, funds may be reduced or the department may not be able to maintain or enhance its present status and influence within the organisation.
The dilemma surrounding the evaluation of learning is a source of frustration with many senior executives-even within the field itself. Most executive realised that learning is a basic necessity when organisation experience significant growth or increased competition. They need intuitively feel that providing learning opportunities is valuable, logically anticipating a payoff in important bottom-line measures, such as productivity improvements, quality enhancements, cost reductions, time savings, and improved customer service. Yet the frustration comes from the lack of evidence to show that programs really work. While results are assumed to exist and learning programs appear to be necessary, more evidence is needed, or executives may feel forced to adjust funding in the future. A comprehensive measurement and evaluation process represents the most promising, logical, and rational approach to show this accountability. Insources is delivering a two-day workshop around how to measure the contributions of learning and development and performance improvement programs.
When individuals pursue a comprehensive process, they often have anxiety, issues, and concerns. They have important questions that they want resolved. Exhibit 1.1 shows a list if typical questions that individual’s face, regardless of the type of organisation or the organisation’s stage of growth and development each of these issues, as well as many others. Each question is covered with responses that can help resolved many measurement and evaluation system challenges.
- How can I move up in the evaluation chain?
- How can I collect data efficiently?
- What data should be collected at each level?
- How can I design a practical evaluation strategy that has credibility with stakeholders?
- What support do I need for evaluation?
- How can I integrate data in a management scorecard?
- How should evaluations data be used?
- How can I get the internal support to design and implement my evaluation strategy?
- How can I proceed if the evaluation reveals an unacceptable result?
- How can I develop practical and credible tests?
- How can I use the evaluation process to implement a result-based philosophy?
- How can I make cost-effective decisions at each evaluation level?
- How can I convince clients that my program is linked to business performance measures?
Global Evaluation Trends
Measurement and evaluations have been changing and evolving- in both the private and public sectors-across organisation and cultures, not only in the Unites States, but across all developed countries. The following trends have been identified:
- Organisations are increasing their investments in measurement and evaluation with the best practice groups spending 3 to 5 percent of the learning and development budget on measurement and evaluation.
- Organisation are moving up the value chain, away from measuring reaction and learning to measuring application, impact, and occasionally ROI.
- The increased focus on measurement and evaluation is largely driven by the needs of the clients and sponsors of learning projects, programs, initiatives, and solutions.
- Evaluation is an integral part of the design, development, delivery, and implementation of programs.
- A shift from a reactive approach to a proactive approach is occurring, with evaluation being addressed early in the cycle.
- Measurement and evaluation processes are systematic and methodical, often designed into the delivery process.
- Technology is significantly enhancing the measurement and evaluation process, enabling large amounts of data to be collected, processed, analysed, and integrated across programs.
- Evaluation planning is becoming a critical part of the measurement and evaluation cycle.
- The implementation of comprehensive measurement and evaluation processes usually leads to increased emphasis on initial needs analyses.
- Organisations with comprehensive measurement and evaluation systems in place have enhanced their program budgets.
- Organisations without comprehensive measurements and evaluation systems have reduced or eliminated their program budgets.
- The use of ROI is emerging as an essential part of many measurement and evaluation systems. It is a fast-growing metric- 70 to 80 percent of organisations has it on their wish lists.
- Many successful examples of comprehensive measurement and evaluation applications are available in all types of organisations and cultures.
These trends are creating a never-ending appetite for more information, resources, knowledge, and skills in the measurement and evaluation process.
Reference: The Value of Learning, Jack and Patti Phillips, 2014