Companies spent more than $23Bn in 2021 on behavioral skill development, a sum on track to double by 2027 as demand increases for teams to be skilled in high performance traits such as critical thinking, collaboration and agility.

This is real money. But here are the real ROI metrics that companies are turning a blind eye to:

  • 85% of licenses are wasted
  • Poor learning experience resulting in Net Promoter Scores of -25!
  • Metrics that don’t offer any efficacy insight - vanity metrics e.g., ‘13,000 hours of training delivered’ and ‘access to 60,000 courses’.
  • Training 2% of headcount, instead of 100%

Why are such poor results tolerated?

Pre-pandemic, nearly 80% of behavioural skills training was instructor-led, in-person sessions, typically in groups of 20-30 people.

Lockdowns sent companies online and at the same time, amplified the need to support teams to better manage time, focus, develop resiliency and agility. Corporate learning came under pressure for quick fixes to ‘democratise’ learning and many defaulted to widespread adoption of online content libraries such as LinkedIn, Udemy or Skillsoft.

Fast forward to 2022, and there’s rising scrutiny on whether these solutions are effective in delivering behavioural skill development.

Indeed, the year started with news that Bytedance, the parent company of TikTok terminated its entire talent development team citing a lack of value add, and noting in the Company memo that “Many learning events, such as online talks of mediocre quality with over 1000 people or sharings given by[key opinion leaders] which could be easily found on the Internet, did not make very effective use of our employees’ time”.  

“Some respondents mentioned that employees believed such initiatives to be ‘personally helpful’, but candidly speaking, these are more like ‘feel good’ initiatives that are self-indulging and ‘doing things for the sake of doing things’, where the actual value is limited and questionable,” it added.

While this may be a bit extreme, it does highlight the importance of training to be outcome driven. Today, it is possible to measure effectiveness of behavioural skills training, however it requires resources and a different approach to do this at scale.

Most L&D teams are already swamped so the onus should be on the learning companies to provide this and let L&D teams focus on defining the skills their organisations need and on the future.

Here are some things to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of training:  

1.    Decide the behavioural outcomes you need with assessments that measure individuals before, during and after the training.

2.    Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an effective way to track how valuable employees find the training. Beware of ‘satisfaction’ indices that masquerade as NPS. Questions to ask include how wide a pool of respondents are covered, and where in the journey NPS is being captured. NPS needs to be measured across all who complete a course, and not just a subset or at early points.

3.    What is the full course completion rate? Be clear to factor in duration of the learning journey as there’s a big difference between high completion rates for 5 minute micro-learning capsules and a 3-month, 25-hour course!

4.    Ability to apply skills and tools taught. Go the extra mile to see if faced with a specific set of circumstances, would the individual be able to retrieve the skill taught and use it appropriately?

5.    After 3-6 months, ask managers whether they’ve seen progress, and ask learners to articulate key tools they’ve learnt, and how they have applied what they’ve learnt - evaluate the level of detail they recount to see how sticky the learning is.

In this data-driven world we live in, and with all the access we have to learning science and technology, it’s possible to do all this and more!

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