The First Step on a Measurement Journey

When it comes to big data and human performance, I think we’ve moved past the “what” and the “why.” Both leaders and laggards in the industry understand the power of data to address changing workforce challenges.

What’s not as clear is how. Measurement doesn’t just happen. It’s an intentional process. Organizations that get it right have a strategy for measurement that guides the design, deployment and analysis of every investment.

But what is the best way to tackle implementation? When thinking about designing and executing a measurement strategy, the image of a little kid’s messy room comes to mind. If you ask the kid to clean up the room, he or she may stare at the toys for a while before pulling another toy off the shelf and playing, not cleaning.

Why? Because the child has no mental model for how to tackle the mess. He or she doesn’t know where to even begin. Instead, he or she is paralyzed, and then goes back to what the child is good at: playing.

As adults, when we face situations that are unfamiliar, we are very much like little children. We lack the confidence to take action and find ourselves paralyzed by the unknown. Many of our clients come to us feeling this way as they look at a huge pile of data and key performance indicators without knowing how to start sorting it all out.

So where to begin?

Devising a measurement strategy doesn’t have to be intimidating, especially if you start small. Choose one investment to measure from the design phase that can act as a pilot for measurement on a larger scale.

While the strategy will grow over time, there are five key components you should focus on from the start:

1. Drive alignment with business goals:A well-designed measurement strategy will make the explicit connection between talent development and business goals. When thinking about why you want to measure, get specific. What is it that you want to prove? What do you need to improve? Aligning any investment with business goals and corporate strategy is critical, as is aligning the necessary stakeholders at the outset of design and measurement.

2. Establish business measures of success: Your stakeholders can help you determine how you will know the investment is succeeding. They are the keys to accessing the necessary data and designing a measurement study that takes the appropriate metrics and time periods into account.

3. Guide the development of content that’s aligned with business needs:Alignment and defining success should occur before any design takes place. It’s the business measures of success that you will ultimately use to write learning objectives. Instead of saying, “We want our people to be able to do X,” say, “We want to achieve X. To do so, people need to be able to do Y and Z.”

4. Provide in-process measures for continuous improvement:Once the investment is deployed, you want to monitor certain metrics that tell you the program is on the right track. We call those the leading indicators of success. If the wheels are coming off, wouldn’t you want to know before the train derails? This can be a frightening prospect for leaders, but in practice most people uncover more nuanced changes that will help increase the effectiveness of a program. It’s rare to see an aligned investment that doesn’t show business value.

5. Prove and improve the impact and value of learning:You can use business metrics to calculate a return on investment that will pass muster in the CFO’s office. By adding a statistical analysis, you can unlock the power of predictive analytics to optimize the investment. Optimization is a prescriptive analysis that examines results already achieved to identify where future investments are most needed. It’s the competitive advantage you need for high-profile, high-stakes investments.

When organizations adopt a measurement strategy using these five principles, measurement tends to catch and spread like wildfire. Give it a try as you design your next investment. I promise you’ll learn something.