Why demonstrating value is a must

by Brett Henebery15 Feb 2017

Vanessa Blewitt, learning effectiveness lead for corporate training and learning at Nestlé, was recently on the panel at the Learning & Development Masterclass held in Sydney on 30 November

In her role, she has led the development of a learning effectiveness strategy and framework. This includes process and tools for learning design and delivery for business impact, and evaluation measures and reporting.

Blewitt explained the positive impact this strategy has had at Nestle, and what other L&D professionals can learn from its key points.

“Our senior leaders wanted to know the value of learning investments. We could tell them how many and how much…but not the value,” she told L&D Professional.

“We researched industry accepted standards, such as Philips ROI and Kirkpatrick, and listened to our business and the questions they were asking – especially the ones we couldn’t answer.”

Through this approach, Blewitt and her people created a strategy and framework that fit Nestle’s business and which was designed to support both design and delivery.

“It also needed to be adaptable to different types of learning. ROI is not really a key focus as such and even the ROI Institute recommends this for a very small percentage of learning experiences,” she said, adding it involved too many variables, too much time and was “a lagging measure” anyway.

“Our focus is on demonstrating value in a way that is tangible and/or measurable. We recognise that the definition of ‘value’ changes depending on context: learner, business, course etc.”

Blewitt said it is important to include the entire learning journey – pre, during and post – pointing out that learning events for each stage have critical ‘check points’ that will impact the ultimate value of learning.

“This shift alone has had a large impact – where it is applied, learners arrive with clear expected outcomes and leave knowing there will be follow-up about what happened back on the job. This is generating increased business buy-in at all levels and decreasing scrap learning [the percentage of learning not applied within six weeks],” she said.

Scrap learning is the sum of learners who report that they applied the training within a six week period, subtracted from one hundred.

Focus on what delivers value

Blewitt shared some advice to L&D professionals who are anxious about the year ahead.

“Start a conversation. Be bold enough to ask questions and push back. Too often L&D deliver exactly what is asked of them. This sounds like a wonderfully customer-centric approach, but it will not necessarily deliver value,” she said.

“The business is not an expert in developing capability – L&D are. So how can they know what kind of learning they need? As people co-pilots/strategic business partners, L&D need to build business acumen about the business and work together with the business for the business.”

Blewitt added: “We can longer work in isolation, and if this is what’s happening, we must dare to push back”.

“For example, if the business owner does not know what value looks like for a course – how they will decide if learning delivered value – what should be different; the course should not exist until this has been articulated in a way that is tangible and or measurable. L&D needs to facilitate this.”

Similarly, Blewitt said that if a manager is not prepared to enable and empower learners with what they need to apply learning on the job and create new ways of working – the learner should not (yet) invest time in that learning event.

“Again, L&D and Human Resource Business Partners [HRBP] need to work with the business to make this happen.”

Blewitt said she considered role re-definition to be the single greatest challenge facing L&D Professionals today.

“We will no longer add the most value through the experiences themselves – these are available everywhere etc. our value is harnessing learning and using it as a performance accelerator…through the questions we ask and the analyses we conduct…especially leading indicators,” she said.

“These are key to getting the buy-in needed to ensure that learning is applied in a way that results in value rather than becoming a scrap learning statistic.”

The next Learning & Development Masterclass will be held in Melbourne on 6 April. Find out more and register here.

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