The Only Learning Metric You Need to Focus On.

Don’t you hate it when people complicate things? 

One of my favorite movie scenes is from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Indiana Jones is approached by a hooded man wielding a large sword. At first glance, our hero appears to be in a very complicated situation. Luckily, Jones knows better. Rather than fleeing or being intimidated, he simply reaches for his gun and shoots the guy. Everyone watching is shocked and makes a run for it.

Many L&D professionals are like the sword-wielding ninja when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of learning and development. We spend so much time creating metrics and systems to justify our learning programs that we neglect the most simple and effective approach. Then we meet with executives who reach for their guns and shoot holes in our metrics. I’ve got to confess that I don’t blame them because we’re over-complicating things.

There is only ONE metric that we need to focus on when it comes to learning engagements. That’s right, one!

Executive Engagement – simply put, getting executives from the business involved in the programs we’re creating to develop their people.

Think about WHY we create learning metrics. We do this to make sure we’re making a difference, that people are adopting new behaviors when returning to the job. Who are we reporting them to? Their managers mostly. So, why not get them involved early to make sure the programs are a success?

For the past ten years, I’ve talked with hundreds of companies to learn their goals and approaches for developing their people. By far, the organizations who have found their programs to be the most effective are those with executive engagement. Their L&D teams have partnered with executives from the business units they support to involve them in the process. Here are some opportunities to involve executives:

  • Setting Learning Objectives. What outcomes do they want to see? How will they know when it has worked? What will their people be doing or saying?
  • Program Design. Are the examples used within context? Are the exercises compelling or would their people rather watch paint dry or walk on broken glass than sit through the program?
  • Facilitation. Not all executives have the skills to facilitate a program. However, they can kick it off by setting context, or provide relevant teaching inputs.
  • Follow Up. Many executives make themselves available for Action Learning Projects. Think about it, not many companies have had budget to bring in outside resources to tackle their important, but not urgent projects. Why not have a team of high-potentials tackle these issues under the guidance of an experienced executive? This is a win-win situation because the high-potential leaders gain valuable experience and the executives get to make progress on relevant business needs. Tying stretch assignments to Individual Development Plans can also help move the needle.

Don’t waste your time creating an army of sword-wielding metric ninjas. Do it the Indiana Jones way. Keep it simple and move on with urgency.

How do you gain executive engagement in your learning and development initiatives?


About Brian Williamson

I work with salespeople and leaders to get better results by taking a character-based approach. That means Executing by helping others Execute their priorities. I'm also the founder of Testimony & Tunes ( where everyday people share lessons learned through faith, and artists can share tunes that reflect their faith.

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