Podcast | Measuring Learning’s Impact With The L&D Detective – Kevin M. Yates

June 16, 2021
June 26, 2023

What’s the impact of our learning and development efforts? Has training fulfilled its purpose? And why are the answers so often a mystery?

The L&D Detective is here to help! Kevin M. Yates joined us in this episode to offer a three-part framework for measuring impact, explain why measurement is a skill in itself and discuss why failing to define impact means more difficulty in measuring it.

Kevin also told us the backstory behind the name L&D Detective, which skills a professional needs, whether management is asking to see measurement metrics, how he almost left the industry and a lot more.

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Running order

0:00 Intro and the origins of the L&D Detective
5:00 Are L&D demanding more budget without demonstrating impact?
7:58 Does L&D report differently when it’s to the HR/People Function vs. the C-Suite?
10:33 What should L&D be measuring?
13:53 Measuring learning effectiveness.
14:19 Examples of business and performance outcomes.
18:21 When is the right time to think about all of this?
20:28 Tech’s role in measurement and examples of success.
24:20 Which skills does an L&D professional need?
30:47 Quickfire questions.

Measuring L&D’s impact with the L&D Detective – seven lessons from this episode

The origins of the L&D Detective

Like all good nicknames, it wasn’t one that Kevin chose for himself. It’s one that he gained after years of investigating facts and solving measurement mysteries. He’s crafted the skill of answering questions around the measurable results and impact of our learning and training efforts.

And he recognises that it’s difficult work, which might be why we don’t have more L&D Detectives out there. It’s a space of uncertainty and ambiguity, where the clues and signs of impact aren’t always that clear – but the doubts and moments of uncertainty are things Kevin experiences too. The solution is to keep digging because the answers are there but they’re not always easy to find.

Is L&D justified in demanding more money without demonstrating impact?

Nelson asked Kevin whether there’s a situation where L&D departments are receiving more budget but without always showing the impact of what they’re doing. In Kevin’s opinion, it might be more of a skill, capability and focus issue – with teams lacking the talents or mindset to investigate the results of their efforts. They’re probably not taking it for granted that they’ll be given more funding, but it could be that they’re lacking the skills and they’re not being asked to present the impact metrics to management.

What should L&D be measuring?

Impact is what you define it as – if you don’t define it then it’s going to be difficult to measure it. So, you have to specify what you want to measure in terms of these three areas Kevin suggested:

  • Operational efficiency – the extent to which L&D as a function is effective at what it’s doing. How many people did we train? For how many hours? What’s the consumption of our resources? But we have to go further than that!
  • Learning effectiveness – the extent to which training and learning results in incremental knowledge, the way in which people are using what they learn to do something differently.
  • Business and performance outcomes – as a result of what people learn, are people performing differently and is what they’ve learned showing up in how they work each day or how they’re able to influence business goals?

How to measure learning effectiveness

Kevin’s preferred technique is business or environmental simulation – creating scenarios that enable employees to make choices, take decisions and apply what they’ve learned. If that’s out of budget then you may need to look at more traditional testing methods, but immersing employees in simulated environments where they make decisions is more effective in Kevin’s eyes.

Examples of business and performance outcomes

Before we even think about this or learning effectiveness, we need to determine purpose – that’s an important reminder Kevin wanted to give. And once you’ve established that, you can understand situations like the performance impact being managers having the ability to have better conversations with employees and the business outcome being increased retention.

But training and learning never support a business goal by itself! It’s a lever that helps you towards those goals. And it’s where we need to tie the three ways of measuring L&D impact together.

When should you think about the measurement part of L&D?

The point at which you think about measurement follows the point at which you recognise there is a business problem to solve or a business opportunity to address. Measurement needs to be top of mind but also part of a conversation that has nothing to do with training – that allows us to work out if training is the right solution.

Kevin’s L&D Detective Kit contains questions you need to get to measurement, ones you need to ask up front before anything is launched – so that you know the purpose and what you’ll measure from the start.

Which skills should an L&D professional be developing?

At the common core, all L&D pros should be data literate or have an element of analytical skills. Individuals have the opportunity to decide how far and deep they want to go with measurement, but everyone should have a little knowledge and experience with measurement at the foundational level.

How to connect

Find Kevin on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Download the L&D Detective Kit.
Learn more about Meals in the Meantime

Find Nelson on LinkedIn and Twitter

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