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High-Performing Organizations Connect Learning & Performance

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Nick Babington, Sales Director, Saba software An alumnus of University of Kent, Nick leads Saba’s business across the Middle East & Africa (MEA). He has over 12 years of experience with Saba Halogen and other Talent Management solution providers.

Recent research reveals that companies with high-performance cultures are more effective at linking learning and performance to drive better business outcomes. For high-performing organizations, learning is not the outcome – it is the behavior that drives performance. Learning and performance management do not merely co-exist – they are dependent on one another. By thinking in terms of business outcomes and focusing learning and development programs on specific behaviors, skills, or competencies, you can solidify the learning-performance connection to achieve the results that matter to your business.

The Disconnect of Measurement
According to Brandon Hall Group research, nearly 70 percent of companies say the inability to measure the impact of learning is a serious challenge for achieving critical learning outcomes. In other words, the absence of a link between learning and performance makes it more difficult to improve learning. Companies tend to focus on things like completion rates and learner satisfaction, which are very learning-focused items and cannot be tied to the business. High-Performing Organizations (HiPOs) more commonly use business-centric metrics – ones such as leadership promotion rates, team effectiveness, and employee engagement. HiPOs are also more likely to use core business outcomes – performance, revenue and profitability – to measure their learning.

How to Make the Learning-Performance Connection
There are several key ways that organizations can improve the
connection between learning and performance. The key is to draw a line from business outcomes to learning outcomes, whether through cascading goals or by reviewing the alignment to learning goals and other desired outcomes within the organization. The key is simplicity. As you set a learning goal and align it with an organizational goal, think about the skills required for success. What is required to get to your ideal end state? Then align those skills with learning from the outset, to ensure the learning positively impacts the final outcome.

"Learning personalization can have a big impact on business outcomes. The vast majority of companies that implement personalized learning report positive impacts for learning and the business"

Personalization of Learning
Learning cannot keep-up with the modern workforce, let alone impact outcomes, if it doesn’t fundamentally change the way it operates. Out-dated methods such as compliance or event-based training no longer engage employees. One way HiPOs can engage learners is by personalization: self-driven, social, collaborative learning that is relevant for the employee. As people work and collaborate in new ways, the need learning environments that are engaging, accessible, impactful, scalable and relevant. Learning personalization can have a big impact on business outcomes. The vast majority of companies that implement personalized learning report positive impacts for learning and the business. Most importantly, the vast majority of companies that deliver personalized learning report an improved link between learning and individual and organizational performance.

Frame Learning Data around Competition
Business leaders love to measure competitive data but it is rare anyone gives it to them. When linking your learning to outcomes, you can frame it for your leaders competitively. Framing is when you place a specific perspective on a topic. Executives will pay closer attention to your story when you can tell a story by framing it around competitive data. For instance, let’s say store sales are slumping in one region. Competitor A in the same region enjoys strong sales (they are a public company, so you were able to do some online digging for revenue figures broken-out by state). Your data tells you that people are buying more of Competitor A’s products, and fewer of your own company’s wares.

From conversations with store staff, you learn that new hires spend weeks navigating online ‘training’. They are frequently off the floor tethered to computer terminals in the breakroom. A little more digging shows that Competitor A is a client of a leading learning management system. Sure enough, your competitor is even featured in a case study that shows in-store staff learning about new sales promotions on mobile devices using their LMS. When you complete your investigation of Competitor A, you know you have solid competitive data and research to show your executive team the link between learning and business performance.