Accountability and Market Research

» Posted by Jeanne Meister  » Posted on 12.03.07

Published October 2003

While companies routinely measure success rates for new products, trade promotion effectiveness and customer retention, many firms avoid using similar quantitative and qualitative measures to evaluate the return on their learning investment. The reason is a lack of tools designed for CLOs to run their learning departments as accountable business units.

According to the Accenture High Performance Workforce Study of 200 senior executives, only 18 percent said they received either weekly or monthly evaluations on the effectiveness of their learning efforts, but at the same time 40 percent of these respondents reported having increased their training budgets in the past year. This lack of accountability would simply not be tolerated in the operation of any other business unit. If CLOs want the credibility of senior business unit executives, CEO included, they must put tools into place that measure and track their performance and the return on the company’s learning investment.

Two tools I believe CLOs should consider include a forecasting/decision-support system to track key performance indicators and a market-research program to monitor the voice of their internal customers, ensuring learning is aligned to the organization’s most pressing strategies.

Decision-support tools allow users to collect and mange learning activities across the enterprise so senior executives can address such issues as: project cycle times from idea to delivery of a new learning program; tracking data on the delivery of current learning programs broken down by media types; and student ILT days delivered with a report on forecasted days versus actual days.

A decision-support tool known as SYNC, developed by Accenture, is used at Avaya University to manage learning activity across the enterprise. SYNC is instrumental in the planning, operation and management of the learning department at Avaya. Essentially SYNC is able to track five key areas:

  • Status management: Status of custom-developed courses in the pipeline.
  • Forecasting: Forecasts course consumption, curriculum updates and course refreshments.
  • Metrics: Reports visual dashboard for delivery, dates met and student assessments conducted.
  • Decision support: Dissects course and curriculum data to examine course hours produced, cycle time of development, student days delivered and business unit appetite of learning.
  • Communication: Reports and forecasts course launch plans and marketing materials needed to build awareness.

While decision-support tools focus on the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning department, that is only the start. CLOs must also put into place market-research tools to examine the needs and perceptions of e-learners. With e-learning usage still an issue at many organizations, CLOs should consider creating a questionnaire that focuses on such usage behaviors as:

  • Where are you using online learning?
  • Do you have a study partner?
  • Are you a member of an e-learning cohort group from your company?
  • If you are searching for an online course, what is most important: brand of vendor/university; ability to transfer credits; blended delivery; cohort group membership; or e-learner support services?

Creating the “right” tools to manage learning as a business will allow you to use quantitative measures quickly, precisely and clearly to build your business case in how learning impacts the company’s bottom line. Simply put, running learning as a business is a requirement for corporate survival.

CLOs will increasingly be called upon to explain the return associated with the investment in learning. Failure to have the tools in place that can explain this will put the learning department at risk.

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