Why L&D Should Be Excited about Operational Changes

We often stress the importance of measuring the impact of learning programs, especially if you hope to develop training that actually improves outcomes. But what happens when you aren’t able to actively analyze learning’s impact because the organization is focused fully on shifting operations to support whatever crisis is thrown at us? In this blog post, we’ll explore what’s happening right now in the world of learning evaluation and analytics and what this means for you.

To help us gauge L&D’s state-of-mind, we’re going to take a peek at the current results from Watershed and LEO's Measuring the Business Impact of Learning survey—which uncovers not only how the learning analytics landscape has shifted, but also how COVID-19 has impacted L&D’s ability to capture and track learning data.


Hey wait—read this first!

This blog post only takes into account the survey results at the time of publication. The following findings may change pending the final results, which will be shared in early 2021.


To date, results from the Measuring the Business Impact of Learning show that more than half of the respondents say they feel executive pressure to measure learning’s impact. This is nothing new, as it’s consistently been the top response throughout previous surveys. However, more than half of this year’s respondents have also reported that, due to the impacts of COVID-19, they’re focusing on operational changes first and then refocusing on measurement.

Let’s talk about these operational changes. Let’s assume the biggest changes have been the need to:

  • move all training online to accommodate the now-remote workforce,
  • reskill the existing workforce into new roles, and/or
  • upskill existing workforce to still function amidst layoffs and cutbacks.

This is no easy task, as it most likely involves designing and delivering learning content in a way that’s easily accessible, affordable, and engaging. And as a result, that means you also might need to find creative ways to repurpose your existing tech stack, or add new tools and technology to your learning ecosystem. So, not only is there a requirement to create and deliver all this new training, but there’s also a need to learn how to use these new tools. Simply put, you’ve got your hands full.

Use operational changes for your L&D foundation.

Training (and measurement) go hand in hand with operational changes. When systems, processes, culture, or strategies evolve, so does how employees work. And times of operational transition within the organization should serve as your flag for realigning learning and redefining measurement, even if measurement doesn’t happen right away.

So how exactly do you do this? By ensuring you understand:

  • what the organization’s priorities are for the operational change,
  • what outcomes they are hoping to achieve, and
  • how they are looking to measure success.

Now you may think: How will I know that? I’m not in the C-suite making these decisions. I’m just being told what learning is needed and to make it happen. Who do I ask? And why should they tell me?

Start by checking your inbox. Who is asking your department to make training or process changes to support the organization’s shifting operations? These stakeholders are likely your executive sponsors who have a vested interest in your program’s success. Furthermore, what are these stakeholders asking for? Just as you use these requests to map out and design learning that better meets everyone’s needs, map out how you can gather data or evaluate performance that aligns with their business goals. Remember, if your reports help them tell a story, leadership is more likely to have a vested interest in lobbying for data that may be more difficult for you to come by on your own.

For example, the vice president of sales is under pressure to increase revenue, as sales have declined due to everyone now working remotely—thus, limiting the sales team’s ability to make in-person visits. As a result, the sales team needs training aimed around new approaches and tactics for selling remotely. They’ll probably have KPIs and success metrics for their new process, so ask for that information and identify ways in which you can measure your programs against those metrics.

Take time now to ensure future success.

It’s unfortunate that you can’t actively work toward measuring learning impact right now, but you CAN save yourself a ton of trouble down the line if you spend a few extra moments making sure:

  • your goals align with the strategic priorities (which you can figure out by talking to the right stakeholders);
  • you have access to the data or metrics about those priorities (which you are likely to get easier access to if your ask is at the beginning of the change process and you can appeal to the stakeholders—who will reinforce your request for IT to give you access to that data if stakeholders don’t already have access to that data); and
  • you have somewhere to store all that data until next year, or whenever you return to a measurement focus.

While everyone would like to do measurement right now, they have other stuff to focus on at the moment. And the other “stuff” is what you always do—responding to changes in the organization that need training and development. But this time, everyone’s eyes are on it, so use this to your advantage! While people are frantic and focused on making changes for business continuity, make sure you build in the strategic planning process that you always WISH you could have when creating your programs.

So where do you start? Well we don’t have the golden ticket, but check out our 7 steps to learning evaluation.

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