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Measuring the Health of the L&D Function

“How do you measure the health of your business?” This is a question that the top leaders of successful, high-performing organizations are often asked. But how does the L&D function within the enterprise measure its own health? If you are a leader of any learning team, it would seem reasonable to expect to be asked this question at some point (if you haven’t been asked already.) Unfortunately, answers to this question are often anecdotal. Here are just a few examples of operational indicators that we often encounter which may sound familiar to you as well:

“We are really busy. My team is treading water.”

“We don’t have sufficient resources to support that project.”

“That’s not a top priority at the moment.”

“We don’t have the budget for that.”

“We’re not sure if that program is getting the right traction.”

These represent just a handful of practical truths that learning teams face day-to-day. But they are just subjective talking points without tangible evidence. Do you have the necessary metrics to validate these claims? Perhaps more importantly, do you have the right data to respond and take meaningful action? Let’s take a closer look at a few of these indicators, and what data sets might help you understand and manage your operational health.

These are just a few specific examples -- but think carefully about how these different data points can help you make informed, timely decisions on how you operate your team and proactively manage and mitigate any volatility that may lie ahead. You also need to identify reliable sources to surface these metrics – in some cases you may not yet have a systemic process to consistently collect this data. The key is not to wait to establish these metrics until after you need them the most.

Having decided on the appropriate metrics, perhaps the best way to monitor organizational health is to create and maintain a real-time (or near real-time) reporting dashboard that targets pragmatic, meaningful data. The problem we often see with out-of-the-box reports from modern learning systems is that they tend to focus on form over substance; you want reports that tell YOUR data story that has relevance to your business health.

From a strategic standpoint, having a consistent set of operational metrics can help you:

  • Continually build a business case: You need empirical data to prove that you are growing or experiencing changes to the scope and requirements of your organization. Requesting additional resources and/or budget often demands objective metrics that demonstrate this need to decision makers and budget owners.

  • Proactively forecast peaks and valleys: As you build historical operational data over months and even years, you can start to identify trends that can help you anticipate and readily plan for moments of volatility.

  • Challenge the status quo: Isolated perceptions and current state complacency can make it difficult to influence change and initiate opportunities to introduce new approaches to your L&D operating model. The right set of data, and experimenting with new metrics, can help dispel anecdotal themes and jumpstart innovation and process improvement. (See the movie “Moneyball” as a real-world example.)