Hints and tips for demonstrating value

by | Oct 28, 2008 | Articles

What gets your work noticed by stakeholders and peers back at work? What helps you increase engagement? What helps secure your budget in times of turmoil? The ability to demonstrate value!

Demonstrating value is also one of the 6 strands from the Towards Maturity Model . Our research over the years has shown that  it is one of the main activities that helps us increase the impact and take up of our solutions back in the workplace.

How can we go about demonstrating value?

We are not talking about full blown return on investment studies here ( although that certainly can help when we have time and resources to do them). And we are definitely not just talking about showing how we can saving money over traditional classroom programmes ( although again that will probably help in these recessionary times). So what do we mean by demonstrating value? The criteria set by the eLearning network for this this years e-learning awards asked participants to illustrate their successes in a number of ways – demonstrating value was integral for every catagory. Criteria  included:

> Provide proof of benefits,
> Verification that the programme has achieved required results
> Support to back up claims that performance has been affected
> Evidence on how stakeholders and learners have responded
> Demonstrations of the effectiveness in meeting organisational needs.
These are not just critieria, tagged on to help us  winning awards- our research has shown that this type of activity should be an integral part of our implementation and design processes, if we want to deliver valuable business solutions – so  how do we go about doing this more effectively?

Keep an eye on the end game

The process of  demonstrating value starts with the ability to identify the value for  key stakeholders at the outset– this includes the learners, their managers and other influential people reliant on the outcomes.  Different stakeholders will have different expectations on value from the experience and each will exert a  different influence on your programme’s success . Clear, smart and mutually agreed objectives for each stakeholder group provides an agreed point of reference as you implement your solution( and a good excuse to engage early).

When it comes to engaging business managers, the initial conversation about expected results also provides an opportunity  to start gathering the existing business metrics that they expect to improve. Understanding what value looks like for learners will also help in the design process and the engagement process – otherwise we might not get the balance right. Relevance, convenience and recognition of success will be higher on the learners list than perhaps the sponsor.

It is also important to have an eye on the area of demonstrating value throughout the rollout process.  What questions are we asking in the iterative prototyping and pilot phases of the project? Adding a few questions that indicate the participants perception of usefulness here might help later on: eg

  • In what ways will you use this back at work?
  • Would you recommend this to anyone else at work and why?
  • Who else should know about this programme and why?

Gathering feedback

How are organisations getting feedback from their learners? Most organisations use a feedback sheet after each course, with some form of follow up action taken in approaching a third of cases. We found that an alarming 7% of organisations do not gather learner feedback at all.

Our research showed that organisations achieving the best business impact are also offering better follow-up for their learners once they are back at work in the form of focus groups, following up with learners once they return to work and discussion in team meetings.

Feedback can be gathered and recorded in a number of different ways – Cable & Wireless worked with Kineo to take advantage of tools like survey monkey to gather learner feedback and to work with learners ( and their managers) to follow up after a programme. Simple idea, easy to implement and effective in continually demonstrating value back to the business.

Powerful and pithy anecdotes and quotes can also work well – they illustrated the benefits of the solution more eloquently than anything. I have seen great use of personalised stories – captured in print or even via audio and video diaries when staff can highlight how they are applying their new skills back at work.

Anecdotal evidence should not be underestimated – it enriches a story or busieness case and makes it come alive. This is even more important when you are looking to demonstrate the value of solutions to learners, managers and sponsors back at work. We know that peer recommendation is more powerful than anything that learning and development professionals can say. We should take every opportunity to gather it and use it.

Measuring what you can

Anecdotes are powerful but metrics that indicate organisational improvement speak loud and clear ( particularly to budget holders and line managers) and yet this is an area that we often dismiss as being too difficult or too time consuming.  We should gather the easy stuff just as a matter of course – how many have been through the programmes, how many have completed and the comparative value of doing using learning technologies vs other media.
Value in terms of cost savings is important ( particularly in the financial climate) but how would we answer the CFO’s question about ‘ why shouldn’t I jsut cut all learning at the  moment?’ or the learners complaint that ‘ they are just throwing the cheap stuff at us now’.

We need to be able to talk about the additional value that our more cost effective learning solutions will add to the business and that means being willing to talk to directors about business metrics and staff moral/motivation in order to get their feedback on how they think the intervention has contributed to that metric.  There are lots of models to help this process, a full measurement process will probably only be used on the most high profile solutions but the discussions around adding business value should be central in all of our conversations.

Communicating success

Now is not the time to be shy – once you have gathered evidence, use it! Continually! Using whatever means you can! Email, intranet, posters, viral campaigns, peer to peer recommendations, slides prepared for your manager’s or MD’s next presentation, league tables, regular management updates, learner award ceremonies, newsletters…..

The list is endless. Good relationships with internal comms teams can prove invaluable – they who could well be working on the comms angle of your learning intervention anyway, particularly if it is part of an organisational change programme.

Feedback, measurement, communication are all critical strands for demonstrating value – if you want to win next year at the awards or if you want to win hearts and minds next month back in the workplace, then get started today!

Tactics for demonstrating value

1. Measure what you can when you can, as seamlessly as possible
2. Gather anecdotes and use them where you can.
3. Target communications to different stakeholders
4. Communicate specifically against value measures agreed at the start
5. Use focus groups and feedback sessions to identify unexpected value add
6. Focus on enabling peer to peer communications:
> Recommend a friend on your programmes
> Video diaries
> Podcasts
> Interviews with high profile learners
> Use all intranet and web site opportunities to share peer to peer evidence

Compare your L&D strategy with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check

Compare your L&D strategy

Review your L&D strategy to discover your strengths and opportunities for improvement with the Towards Maturity Learning Health Check.

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