Last week, two things happened within a few hours of each other. (Well actually, an incredible number of things happened last week but Learning Technologies always means one of my busiest times of the year.) But the two things I refer to bear referencing in relation to each other because they form the punchline -for me – of what the event is really all about.
In the last session of the conference, David Perring succeeded in rousing some tired attendees in his session on ‘showing the impact of learning, painlessly (almost!)’ He asked some challenging questions around who finds measuring learning impact painful (more than half the room), who thinks they are good at evaluation (one or two cautious hands in the hair) and should we resign Kirkpatrick to the dustbin (OK maybe that’s not a tough one, the answer was a resounding yes!) He argues that evaluation is not as important as making a measurable impact. ‘Learning should be a strategic investment to drive performance and to build business capability. But how do you measure the impact it really has or maximise that impact?’ One of the keys is to stop thinking of learning as a one-off event. Start considering longer – even ongoing – learning experiences and the picture shifts beyond Kirkpatrick levels 1 and 2. Start thinking about goals such as ensuring proper engagement with learners, improving the design of current learning solutions and even being able to demonstrate the value of learning investment to senior management. He encouraged us to put values against key measures like cost reduction, sales increases, productivity rises. Value isn’t about outputs, it’s about impact and supporting the winder goals of the organisation. You can view his slides here with some useful questions and models that will get you thinking about more than just happy sheets.
Demonstrating the impact of learning
Just a few short hours later, I found myself at The Dorchester for the 21st annual Learning Awards hosted by the Learning and Performance Institute. I was lucky enough to sit down with Managing Director, Ed Monk, before the event where we discussed the importance of recognising, not just clever or innovative learning initiatives – but actual business impact.
He believes that L&D is often an unsung hero in organisations, so the awards is about giving credit for what they do because ‘learning can change lives’. The awards have evolved since their inception in 1996 (originally the Institute of IT Training awards). As well as the obvious shift away from IT training, they are now much more focused on how learning affects the performance of individuals and their organisations. Anyone who wants to win an award is faced with a tough panel of judges – headed up by chairs Colin Steed and Nigel Paine – drilling into the detail on how learning has made an impact in this way.
Monk feels passionately about sharing stories of the winners through the LPI’s member network, its events like Learning Live and this year, with interviews from Learning Now TV. ‘A big part of our mission is about inspiring and motivating others. Every winner’s story has takeaways that can be used in different organisations to deliver learning that makes a difference. The affect on the winners themselves can be sensational – I’ve seen it transform careers and encourage even greater achievements as they continue on their own learning journeys’ he commented.
You can view the full list of the 2017 winners here. And I can report it was indeed an inspiring evening. From seeing the excellent work done by GoodPractice recognised in External Solution of the Year, the delighted team at Dell pile onto the stage as one, the demonstrable results delivered by Villeroy & Bosch with very little infrastructure and resources, to CLO of the year Naomi Lockwood thanking her team and crediting her colleagues with so much of her success, and seeing Nick Shackleton-Jones bestowed with the prestigious Colin Corder award. There is something for everyone in L&D to take inspiration from in the list of winners and finalists.
For me, this is why we all attend industry conferences and trade shows – to find out what we can potentially achieve and evaluate new ways of delivering that. Everyone in L&D is trying to make a difference and if their lens is focused on impacting the right areas as described by David Perring and as recognised by the LPI, then learning has the power to be truly transformational.
Footnote: The LPI also does a huge amount for the very worthwhile charity, Dreamflight. Seeing Paralympian Liz Johnson – previously a child who benefited from this incredible journey – talk about how it helped give her confidence and ultimately become a gold medallist, is still one of the most memorable speeches I’ve ever seen. Between a charity auction and countless generous donations from attendees, thousands of pounds were raised on the night. If you can spare a few bob, you can donate vis their website and if you’ve only got a tenner, brighten up your office with one of the excellent LPI charity calendars.
All photos courtesy of olgamanzano via Flickr and the official photos of the Learning Awards 2017.