New Voices in L&D – James Barass-Banks

The topic of ROI for L&D is a very common one to discuss. Previously, Eva Adams gave us her thoughts on how we can have those conversations in better and stronger ways. Here, James Barass-Banks offers his points of view. I think there are valid points here to think about, and they partner with Eva’s piece.

I don’t edit or amend the pieces being written for me. I’m not an editor, and that’s not something that matters for the purposes of this series. Each piece is submitted in the author’s own writing style.

You can connect with James on LinkedIn.

Ensuring L&D makes a meaningful impact

Demonstrating the impact of Learning & Development activities can be a struggle. Kirkpatrick evaluations rarely progress to stage 4 and statistics from LMSs and training courses can only offer so much insight. None of these however, fully demonstrate ROI or give stakeholders a compelling reason to care about L&D.  It’s a point of tension and is evidenced by the regularity with which conversations around impact and ROI come up.

However, there is hope in sight. As Ed Monk pointed out on the Good Practice podcast. L&D is evolving and the focus is less on demonstrating return and more on broader impacts such as facilitating change; developing soft skills, working across the company, helping culturally and using technology effectively. If you do all these things you should be able to measure real impact and I agree.

This blog aims to help you demonstrate and communicate the real impact you’re having in a more meaningful way. A way that will unlock more budget. A way which your organisation recognises as not only valuable but essential to its future.

Demonstrating your impact meaningfully

Below are three ways to increase the relevancy and impact of your reporting by making them more relevant and accessible to stakeholders. All of these techniques have value in their own right, but to gain the most out of them a blended approach is best.

  1. Derived Demand

The first way to demonstrate your impact meaningfully is through derived demand. Derived demand is a demand for a commodity, service, etc. which is a consequence of the demand for something else. For example, you buy a washing machine because you want clean clothes. Not because you’ve got a space in your kitchen which needs filling.

This is important as it puts your metrics into a format that your stakeholders understand and care about. Whether that’s translating it into revenue, cost savings or potential earnings. It makes your impact more accessible, more tangible and more relevant to them. Which ultimately, can open up more budget and more opportunities for L&D.

To do this effectively, you will be using correlational data. This means collecting data before and after a learning intervention so that you can make comparisons. This data will likely come from other departments analytics which presents a further challenge. But if you can demonstrate a clear link to strategic objectives you should be able to get buy in. More on this later.

Once that initial hard work of gaining access to the right data is done your reporting will be more meaningful and more effective.

Here are a few examples:

You work for a catering company of 1,000 and train 25 existing staff on food handling and food safety and all 25 pass. It’s great! What this means for the business is that you’ve increased operational capacity by 2.5%.

You deliver a workshop about conflict resolution to a customer service team of 10 at a big B2B company. You then see a 5% increase in the number of customers retained by that team. Those 5% buy £1m each year. Therefore, your training supported £1m of revenue. More than that, the cost of acquiring customers can be four times the lifetime value of a customer (use this tool to help you do the maths). Therefore the impact to the organisation could be up to £4m.

10 data administrators have been struggling to use Salesforce for the last 6 months and the number of cases they resolve a day currently sits at 5 per person. Your training educates them on more effective practice and shows them shortcuts. After training the same team is able to resolve 10 cases a day per person. Your impact results in improving the team’s efficiency by 100%, which means the company doesn’t need to hire an additional 10 people.  This brings a saving of £250,000 in salaries and a potential further saving of £37,500 – £75,000, assuming recruitment costs of  15% – 30%, adding up to  £325,000 in total

Getting hold of the data can be a challenge, however there are other meaningful ways to demonstrate your impact. Read on to find out more!

  1. Success stories

Another way to demonstrate your impact, and engage prospective learners, is to share success stories. It’s an opportunity to show how L&D has supported a particular individual to be more successful and encourages others to engage to achieve similar results.

To do this well you need both a relatable story and specifics around impact. Choose something relevant and create both a condensed version of 100 words with a few specifics, and a longer version telling the full story in around 800 words. Here is a great example.

You can create success stories by interviewing the individuals who are already talking positively about your impact. Those who are proactive in seeking you out for further development. Or anyone who you believe has benefited greatly as a result of your work.

Success stories are also a very good way to talk about the unseen impact of L&D. Owen Fergurson explains on the Good Practice Podcast how someone was unaware of all the learning they had done through stretch assignments. It was only when they reflected did they realise how much these had helped them grow.

A great example and a perfect story to tell other stakeholders.

3; Alignment to strategic goals.

The third way to demonstrate your impact on the business is the alignment to strategic goals. Proving that L&D is helping to further the strategic aims of the organisation helps to position you as forward thinking and relevant.

Strategic goals can be everything from entering new markets to revenue targets, from becoming a market leading brand to reducing overheads. In all of these there are ways for you to link your activities to the future development of the company. Doing so makes your reporting more meaningful as it ties it to an agreed value.

Take the example of educating staff before entering a new market.  Pull together all the stats from updated programmes people have attended, views of relevant resources and briefings you’ve organised. Along with positive post course surveys and feedback this will demonstrate clearly how many people you’ve helped with the transition. Which in turn will clearly show your impact towards a strategic objective.

Another example is building a market-leading brand.  How your staff talk about their job in social situations is key to delivering that objective. As this article from Forbes shows, employees are now looking for companies that care about them. Therefore if, with your actions, employees feel that the company cares for them and their needs you’re supporting that strategic goal. How? By creating ambassadors for the company.

With all these ways to demonstrate your impact the most important and overriding factor is to make your reporting as relevant as possible to your audience. This allows other stakeholders to better understand your impact and will further build your credibility.

Communicating your impact

Now that you know how to demonstrate your impact the next step is about how to communicate that impact.

As well as briefing senior management, this could be posters, internal networks, monthly meetings etc. If it gets your message of real impact in front of the audience in a meaningful way it’s a good thing!

I’d also recommend creating engaging visuals and infographics. These can be used to tell the story of your data in a simple and effective way whilst at the same time providing ample opportunity to demonstrate the value L&D is bringing to the organisation. This undoubtedly will help you to influence and demonstrate your value to stakeholders of all levels.

Here are a few of my favourite free infographic tools:

Infogram – If you’re dealing with lots of data it’s amazing and very simple!

Visme & Canva – both have good templates

Spark – focused on Adobe users so perfect for those on a Mac

It’s also worth considering, if possible and appropriate, adding your statistics to the report of other departments. As L&D is supporting them and helping to contribute to their success it provides an opportunity for someone else to show the value you’re bringing to them. It also allows the training and development of their staff to be added to their KPIs. This gives you a mandate to support them even further and make an even bigger impact.

In conclusion, seek to make your statistics more relevant to your audience and engage stakeholders at all levels to demonstrate the impact L&D is making in a meaningful way. You can do this through linking your impact back to financials or using a number of other methods.

Learn more about how L&D can leverage marketing techniques with a framework for Learning and Development here.

Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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