Last week’s Saltbox Savvy covered the Customer Segments section of the Learning Model Canvas (LMC). Once you know who L&D’s customer is, you need to know not only what they want, but what success looks like. This is the focus of the Business Outcome portion of the LMC.
When it comes to Business Outcomes, it’s important to understand that different stakeholders have different definitions of success. The comprehensive metrics L&D might consider include efficiency (the ability to deliver required learning in a timely and cost effective manner), effectiveness (the quality of the learning and behavior change), and business results.
While for years, efficiency metrics have been the standard tool for L&D, ultimately, this is a minor measurement for the overall business. Customers are often much more concerned with effectiveness as a measuring stick of value. Do not underestimate the power of tying effectiveness of learning to actual improvements in employee performance (see the TIP below). It is not about how efficient L&D is in teaching, but the effect that teaching has on the customer’s desired results.
It’s the Customers’ Results, Not L&D’s
In terms of the Kirkpatrick Model, it’s the “Level 3 & 4 Results” that we’re interested in. These results generally fall into behavior change and business outcomes in two categories: process metrics (such as accuracy and timing), and business metrics (such as sales volume and market share).
- Process Metrics
- Quality: Accuracy, uniformity, defects
- Time: Cycle, task, service, delivery
- Satisfaction: Of stakeholders, customers, employees
- Business Metrics
- Cost: Labor, material, call times
- Quantity: Sales and production volume, profit, new customers
- Business Value: Company growth, market share, industry awards
These are just examples of the kinds of results L&D’s customers may be after. The key is that they are measurable to provide L&D and its customers with common points of reference. As vital as measuring successful outcomes is, demonstrating that those outcomes are tied to the learning is equally important. This only highlights the value of tools like xAPI and Learning Record Stores to extend L&D’s awareness beyond the traditional learning environment.
Note that the customer may have more than one type of Business Outcome in mind. However, as I’ve mentioned, the LMC is designed to broach difficult conversations; stakeholders need to fight the tendency to ask for everything without giving up anything. A goal to reduce defects may mean accepting temporarily slower service or delivery times. Similarly, don’t expect to draw new customers while simultaneously ignoring customer satisfaction. As with the LMC as a whole, your Business Outcomes need to be internally consistent and aligned.
Connection to the Learning Models
When undertaking something as time- and resource-intensive as a transition to a new learning model, it’s important to ensure that the metrics you intend to track are relevant to your customers and overall organization. Others will be more confident in L&D if you can prove that your training programs will lead to the desired outcomes.
For those searching for a new direction, the choice of Business Outcomes also influences what learning model an organization should be adopting. If your customer is trying to reduce cycle or service time, a model specializing in short timeframes, like Performance Support, could be ideal. If customer satisfaction and service levels need to be higher, that may suggest a model heavy on the Skills Development pattern, such as Innovation or University. If cost effectiveness is your priority, Mass Distribution may be the right fit.
Understanding and targeting Business Outcomes is crucial to your learning model. Moreover, those who use it well can distinguish themselves as learning consultants and not just as designers or content developers. Once you have a better idea of who the customer is, and what that customer considers a learning success, the next step is to delve into how you should actually work with the customer, which we’ll investigate in the Customer Relationship section of the LMC. If you have questions about Business Outcomes or would like more information about completing your own LMC, contact us at Saltbox or leave a comment below.
When I help L&D departments filling out an LMC, I often find learning leaders trying to skip past the Business Outcomes. Don’t succumb to that temptation! Learning design and delivery at the tactical level may be interesting to L&D, but establishing the desired Business Outcome is critical to communicate the value of training to other stakeholders in an organization. Concrete business results and goals are what will get executives excited about new learning initiatives. You can leverage this to gain buy-in and resources for L&D. Organizational influence gives you more freedom to execute learning the way you want to do it, and effectively communicating Business Outcomes is one way to build it.