From the desk of Zafirah Jeetoo,
Training & Education Partner, Pierpoint Financial
Why should organisations be upskilling staff? Is there still a need for learning as we all emerge from the pandemic lock-down? The obvious answer is “Yes” - client expectations and competitive pressures grow over time and improving skills and knowledge is part of the journey for every business as well as for an individual’s personal fulfilment. So, let’s look at how to make a business case for learning and development and how armed with the right information, a solid and compelling argument for spending on staff development can be made.
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) organisations should place greater emphasis on developing existing staff capabilities and not just seek to recruit new talent as developing staff leads to a more engaged and productive workforce. When done correctly, investing in your workforce through learning opportunities, talent management plans and job perks can develop a workforce that grows with the business and a team that will stay.
For those of us considering learning & development for our teams, it is essential and useful to use metrics, as it is under pins all commercial transactions and L&D can be considered to be another transaction in the business world.
1. Gather Quantitative data
The metrics that can be used to inform and measure Learning & Development (L&D) can be categorised as “qualitative and quantitative”. Quantitative data is numerical in form and based on fact. This type of metrics can be used to populate graphs and charts to enhance an individual’s argument; it can assist in spotting trends, e.g., staff turnover and attendance figures. However, a limitation of relying on just quantitative data is its inability to capture emotional or environmental information.
Take the recent pandemic, for example, some statistics that have emerged about the way individuals have interacted with online learning:
The chart above confirms that across the board, for different types of educational levels, digital learning was preferred and delivered online. Furthermore, there is a predominance of those undertaking non-degree courses, certificates, or vocational or technical training also see themselves preferring online over the longer timeframe.
Securities Finance Example – Data regarding SFTR reconciliation volumes and root causes. The results will identify areas for focus.
2. Qualitative data
Qualitative data, on the other hand, is narrative and presents information in written format, it can be used to describe feelings which can be positive as it provides insights into reasons and consequences on why “something” is happening. In an L&D environment, qualitative data may provide valuable insights and clarity on the human condition, thus providing recommendations for potential solutions for enhancing the workplace for staff.
A limitation of this type of data, though, is that it may be misconstrued by readers and used by writers to suit individual agendas, is open to interpretation and with the volume of information may not be scalable. That is why for a balanced argument, data and metrics should be used in addition to qualitative information. Interestingly and favourably though, Udemy (2021), in its The 2021 Workplace Learning Trends Report, found that the increase in anxiety and depression, once a taboo subject in the workplace, has been open for discussion within businesses such as Starbucks and Unilever, such organisations in prioritising the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, even before the pandemic. Consider the quantitative data that could be pulled from different areas of the business to support this e.g., lost productivity due to staff absenteeism, sick days and not meeting targets.
Udemy for Business, a learning site, has seen an increase of 8,660% in the consumption of mindfulness courses in the Government and Non-profit sector compared to 2019.
Securities Finance example – Survey staff asking the degree to which they would feel confident in speaking with clients and colleagues regarding key industry trends and topics that management define as important.
3. Key Performance Indicators
Another valuable metric to use for making a business case is Key Performance Indicator’s (KPI’s), as it is advantageous for any individual looking at training budgets or learning requirements to be armed with data such as productivity and sales. These metrics can often bridge the gap between L&D and the rest of the business. It gives the manager, line manager or business unit head the ability to use business language that stakeholders and financial department leaders understand, and clear, quantifiable data can be a tool to build a body of evidence to present to those who hold budgets and possess decision making authority.
From an L&D professional’s perspective, it can aid L&D teams to partner with organisations to achieve strategic objectives and provides clear information on an L&D function that is not just “nice-to-have” but is scoped to be a sound business investment. Consider using Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation as this will assist the evaluation process with measurable results. It clearly details steps that can identify if learning has been well received, learning transfer achieved, and assists in the collection of further metrics e.g., if customer satisfaction has risen after staff receive further customer service skills training.
Example – Identify and test specific business outcome, create a targeted learning programme - test KPIs before and after to determine both progress towards issue resolution and value of focused L&D intervention.
Organisations now hold vast amounts of data, and with a bit of liaising with different departments, the information can be collected and one should not be hesitant to ask for it. This step is essential in making a strong case for L&D leading to enhanced business outcomes and better-motivated staff with management being held accountable for spending and all stakeholders celebrating improved performance.