It seems learning and development executives are in a constant struggle to identify and implement programs that are cost-effective, provide measurable ROI, and move the needle in retaining and developing top talent. For example, a 2017 report from LinkedIn found that, while 90 percent of business leaders believe L&D programs are key to closing skills gaps, only 8 percent said they’d seen a business impact of these programs, and only 4 percent had seen a clear ROI.
Similarly, a 2018 Harvard Business Publishing report saw 66 percent of organizations that see L&D as critical to success feeling like they had a stronger market position than their competitors. But still, 80 percent of leaders surveyed felt that greater innovation is still needed in learning techniques used in these programs.
While it’s clear leaders value learning and development as a powerful tool to engage employees and maintain a competitive advantage, there is still a wide gap between the perceived importance of L&D and the value of existing programs.
How can learning and development leaders get the most value out of their investments?
At Quantified, we believe the most important criteria is a program’s ability to engage employees. After all, if the intended users refuse to participate, or if they only participate passively—keeping one eye on the screen while their brains are elsewhere—even the most cost-effective solution will be a waste of money. There will be no ROI to measure, and the impact on employee engagement will be negligible at best.
So how can learning and development leaders encourage employees to invest fully in their program offerings?
In his recent post about the 2019 LinkedIn Learning Report Deloitte’s Josh Bersin writes that the number-one thing holding people back from learning is time. The issue isn’t a lack of offerings—the L&D market is now valued at more than $240 billion, and it’s only growing—or a reticence to prioritize soft skills. It’s that employees feel they’re too pressed for time.
Bersin’s article discusses how HR leaders can help employees “find” more time by emphasizing the value of ongoing learning on a company level, rewarding learning, and finding ways to streamline workflows. While these are all highly valuable recommendations—and strategies we constantly work on as a team here at Quantified—we think shifting this “no time” mindset requires one step further:
Offer programming and course formats that make employees feel like learning is worth their time.
Traditionally, learning and development programs have a bad rap for being significant time commitments—several-hour webinars or day-long offsite trainings—with very little relevance to individual employees’ needs. And while, once upon a time, these highly generalized programs were the only way to offer training at scale without busting the budget, they’ve left a bad taste in employees’ mouths. Their to-do lists are already miles long, so why would they make time for something that won’t have a direct impact on their work or their professional skills?
And there’s the secret.
To encourage employees to participate fully in learning and development, provide programming tailored to each employee’s individual needs.
Sound like a tall order? Fortunately, innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven learning technology have put this seemingly impossible task within reach. Here at Quantified, we’ve harnessed these innovationsto provide communication-based soft skill training for entire organizations. With learning tailored to every individual user’s unique needs, we can provide relevant content and enable measurable progress for everyone on the team.
So how does it work?
1. Personalized Action Plan
Before the program even begins, users upload videos of themselves speaking, and we use a combination of natural language processing and vocal and facial analysis in our proprietary, artificial intelligence-driven platform, to provide each user with an in-depth analysis of his or her current communication skills. We look at how audiences perceive them based on thirty-plus facets of their message content and delivery, and we benchmark that data against peers, aspirational leaders, and industry standards. We then use that data to create a tailored action plan based on the user’s baseline measurements and professional goals. This shows users where they’re already excelling and what they need to work on in order to acquire the skills they need to achieve their leadership goals.
More importantly, it assures users they won’t be spending their limited time reviewing content they already know like the backs of their hands.
2. Approachable Lesson Content
Then, action plan in hand, employees can move on to the lessons. And again, these aren’t hour-long lecture videos or travel-intensive offsites. They’re compact, concise overviews of the communication traits the user is looking to develop, including examples, links to further reading, and exercises designed to help users hone those skills efficiently and effectively.
The goal here is not to make busy employees feel like they have to sit through a class, but to offer them powerful information and strategies packaged in a way that they can internalize it over lunch, in the fifteen minutes between conference calls, or while they’re waiting for the coffee to brew first thing in the morning.
3. Quantifiable Progress Tracking
There’s nothing more disheartening than putting hours of time and effort into a project without any sign of progress or results. And that’s as true for learning and development than anything else. In order to remain invested, employees need to be able to see their results.
That’s why the Quantified platformallows users to reevaluate their skills by uploading a second (or third) video after they’ve spent time working through their action plans. By comparing their new scores to their initial evaluations, they can see exactly where and how much they’ve progressed and reconfigure their action plans to ensure continued improvement.
This visual, quantifiable evidence that the program is working is the lynchpin that will help employees remain engaged and invested in the long term. (And the fact that tracking opens the door to friendly competition over highest scores or most improvement doesn’t hurt either!)
Our goal—and the goal the savviest L&D executives we know are working toward—is not only to create a company culture that values learning but to create learning opportunities that employees consider a good use of their time. Our best team members have a lot on their plates, and we can’t blame them for wanting to be sure they’re not wasting time on activities that aren’t productive. But when we can use personalization, flexible lesson formats, and detailed progress tracking to craft L&D programs users see as a wise use of their time, we can finally crack the code to inspiring employees to participate and unlock the benefits ongoing learning has on company morale, employee engagement, and the bottom line.