Why Current Learning Strategies Deliver Little to No Value

problem-solution-light-bulbThere is a gap between what organizations expect from learning and development programs and what they get in return. According to LinkedIn’s 2017 Workplace Learning report, 90% of business leaders believe L&D programs are critical to closing skill gaps. However, only 4% of CEOs reported that they saw clear ROI from their L&D investment. To close the gap, organizations need to rethink their learning strategies.

There are three reasons why current learning strategies deliver little or no value—all of which are solvable.

Problem 1: Lack of Agility

Current learning strategies are slow. It can take nine months or more for an organization to deploy a self-produced program or initiative. It then takes more time for participants to complete the program. As the speed of business increases, this is no longer tenable. By the time participants complete a program, the skills they learned are misaligned with organizational objectives.

How to Solve the Problem: To build an agile learning strategy, it’s imperative L&D leaders align their initiatives to their organization’s 2- to 5-year plan. This includes understanding the skills that are immediately necessary and those that will be needed in the future. One way to do this is to develop interchangeable, evergreen content modules, or to work with vendors who have similar offerings. Doing so enables an organization to develop talent that will always meet current skill demands.

Problem 2: Inability to Prove ROI

Current learning strategies fail to prove ROI. L&D leaders must develop strategies that clearly show organizational impact in addition to lesser metrics such as participant satisfaction. The industry standard for evaluating L&D is the Kirkpatrick-Phillips evaluation model. The model consists of five levels, with ROI as the highest level. However, only 18% of companies measure level 5.

How to Solve the Problem: To show ROI, L&D leaders should develop strategies that clearly show organizational impact. One way to do this is through a project-based approach to programs and initiatives. With this approach, leaders develop a project while participating in an L&D initiative that addresses a critical business challenge for their organization. This enables organizations to measure implementation of the project, track its financial value, and quantify all five levels of the Kirkpatrick-Phillips evaluation model.

Problem 3: Organizations Value Choice Over Impact

It’s common for organizations to offer many different learning opportunities, opposed to a focused few. The thought process behind this is that employees are more likely to enroll because there are more choices. This is a mistake, as not all these programs will impact the organization and employees are overwhelmed by seemingly random choice.

How to Solve the Problem: An organization should focus on scaling L&D programs that generate the most impact for the business. The best way to do this is to understand the business and financial impact of an L&D initiative. Additionally, by offering only a few programs, L&D leaders can focus their efforts, instead of spreading themselves too thin.

By addressing the three problems above, organizations can create learning strategies that develop top talent with the skill necessary to compete in today’s rapidly changing business environment.

Adam Brinegar

Adam Brinegar

Adam Brinegar leads ExecOnline’s Client Solutions team where he is responsible for deepening and expanding relationships with the company's growing client base. Adam spent 10 years leading research and advising Fortune 500 CHROs for the Corporate Leadership Council at CEB, where he led the development of groundbreaking insights on nearly every facet of talent management and leadership development. Adam holds Ph.D. and MA degrees in Political Science from Duke University, and a BA in Political Science from The Ohio State University.

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