Now What? Challenging Training Groups to Get Better LMS Company Training Results With Measurement

I have been the biggest proponent of using Learning Management Systems as a business training tool for years because they offer so many benefits. These systems allow performance tracking, record keeping and data generation. They are wonderful for compliance, meeting regulatory requirements and establishing consistency in training. Some systems have bells and whistles, some are stripped down, others bare-bones versions that are cost efficient and compatible with most systems while others offer everything from self-authoring to the off-the shelf purchasing of educational training programs. The success or failure or utilizing a LMS really depends on how well the purchase and implementation of the system was incorporated into the overall business strategy and company’s strategic objectives.
Let’s say that your company has already made the jump. Now what? Many companies have implemented metric systems that analyze the before and after of specific training programs. Post course feedback is often analyzed and dumped into report form which provides some usable data but ultimately, the ability of a designer to tie the learning objectives to program and company objectives is the best way to lead to continuous organizational improvement. LMS systems are an excellent way to convey information and I am satisfied that people are able to successfully complete a task after taking a computerized training course. I wonder however, if many organizations have looked beyond individual classes/programs and looked at the training benefits holistically? Has any research been done to show that this type of training has greatly affected performance in a negative or positive direction? How about innovation? Has learning derived from training via a LMS been able to parlay into any innovations or long-term changes in behavior?
Knowledge is a critical resource that leads to good decision making and innovation in a business. Various studies have been conducted regarding computerized trainings. Some studies suggest that certain learning strategies play a part in the success or failure of online training. Others believe that there are certain characteristics such as proactive personality and goal orientation which makes all the difference and trainees with high motivation to learn and that are self-directed will experience greater success. Learning environment, system quality, student attitudes, and group collaboration opportunities have also been used to determine the success of an online learning program.
It is interesting to note that a student’s computer experience or knowledge has also been listed as a possible contributing factor as well as the environment that the student utilizes e-learning. If this is the case, which makes sense, companies should be very careful designing the level of program complexity and selecting the audience and training locations before reviewing completion percentages or performance results. I would also hope that the instructional designer took this into account when putting the program together or has built in leveling for added development or advanced learners. Another point that sheds a small amount of light on the success of a program is that statistics show that retention is greater if skills learned in the program are applied soon after completion. This also makes sense because the information is fresh and practicing commits the information to memory but this would probably be true of any type of training program.
So, this leads us to believe that only with proper follow-up will there be any kind of true long term assessment. We would hope that the factors discussed earlier would have already been considered before a company even started utilizing this type of system in the first place for employee training. Why bother though really? If you had good numbers on tests or quizzes, does it really matter for your organization if we look at these systems holistically? I think that it does. The Training and Development department within your business is responsible and designed to close gaps and help achieve strategic business goals. Demonstrations of cause and effect lead to improved performance. These incremental improvements are than hopefully fed forward cyclically to build upon for the next year eventually raising the bar on your overall performance levels. Some studies show that companies that invest in Training and Development have as much as 15% greater profit returns and approximately a 25% higher engagement rate among employees that are satisfied with the company’s training and development. I don’t think that you will find many people that will argue with a better bottom line.
Trending reviews for three to five year intervals done with post-program surveys almost always show performance improvement or graduated improvement. I would argue that most of these reviews are usually performed on specific training programs, not overall impact. Very few businesses monitor this far out. If students take the same test or variations of the same test, year-after-year, of course the results will improve. The students also know what to expect and how to maneuver through the training system. Has anyone compared the results of a training program on of let’s say, HIPAA Compliance with financial data for a hospital on what reductions in violations has saved the business in fines? Or if training associated in completing proper re-location paperwork has saved on administrative costs over a six month timeframe? How about understanding and implementing any new procedures or processes, communicated via a LMS training module? If a dollar amount was tied to the results, your CEOs would pay attention, wouldn’t they? It is this demonstration on business impact that will become critical to Learning Management System administrators and vendors if they want to stay competitive and effective in corporate training. Not all systems are built to allow this kind of correlation or even designed with this functionality.
My point is this, e-learning instruction and learning management systems in companies have now been around for ten to fifteen years. Even though the industry is still young in comparison to other fields, research on the overall possibilities of business implications are lacking. It becomes the job of the training group to think of a ways to make the measurement happen. Only a small number of companies have been able to create a long-term strategy incorporating Learning Management Systems. In many mid-range companies, it is merely viewed as a means to an end or a check-the-box type of tool. Even though this is a plus of a LMS and a large marketing plus to get the system in your company’s doors, it will become critically important for companies to extend their strategies to include innovation, long-term results and process improvement as a result of computerized training. Challenge your learning and development departments to devise and build upon the basic delivery of programs mentality. You can get so much more out of your training program if you force your teams to tell you “Now what?” If your training plans or LMS strategy can’t answer this question, it may be time to revisit and throw out programs that aren’t giving you the ROI that your business needs to sustain growth, to foster innovation and to feed forward the purpose of your training. I believe that companies can challenge these systems to deliver better long-term results with a little bit of improved planning and finding more efficient ways to measure.

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