Continuous improvement should be a goal for any agile and motivated L&D team. After all, nothing’s perfect. No matter the project, there is always room for improvement. However, this is a factor that many L&D teams overlook.
In the current digital learning landscape, it is not enough to implement a learning project and call it a day. Once the project is up and running, your job is only half done. Your next goal should be to evaluate the project’s strengths and weaknesses, gathering data for how you can optimise any future projects to achieve the best results for your learners.
So, to help take your team’s learning projects to the next level, we’ve put together this guide to continuously improving learning projects. We’ll start by analysing the skills required to evaluate learning projects before offering tips to improve your learning projects and providing a checklist of 10 questions you should ask to improve your learning projects.
One of the best ways to improve the quality of your learning projects is by continuously measuring the strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement of each project. In other words, what worked, what didn’t, and what can you do better next time. Nevertheless, this is an area where many L&D teams struggle.
As we discussed in our article on L&D’s ROI metrics, 98% of L&D teams say that ‘program evaluation’ should be a priority. However, only 38% of organisations believe that they currently have this capability, down from 45% in 2018. These figures should be concerning for L&D professionals, as without the ability to accurately evaluate your learning projects, it is nearly impossible to improve future projects.
Compounding this issue, L&D teams face many frustrating barriers when attempting to evaluate their learning projects. 81% of L&D teams say they experience barriers when evaluating their initiatives, with the most common problems being the pressure of other business priorities (39%), lack of learner or management time (38%) funding (25%), the quality of data collected (20%), the quality of learning systems (19%), and L&D’s capability to conduct the evaluation (17%).
These findings uncover a few concerning trends. Without high-quality data and learning systems to measure your learning projects, L&D teams are essentially left in the dark, guessing about what moves to make next. Worryingly, the CIPD’s research shows that even when L&D teams gather data, 16% rarely use the evidence they have gathered, while 17% don’t know how their organisation uses the evidence they gather. As such, improved data-gathering should be a priority for any L&D team that wants to accurately measure and evaluate the impact of their learning projects.
What’s more, even when L&D teams attempt to evaluate learning projects, their methodologies leave a lot to be desired. The good news is that CIPD’s 2021 Learning and Skills at Work survey shows that 76% of L&D teams evaluate the impact of their learning initiatives, which is an increase from 70% in 2020. However, 36% of L&D teams evaluate their impact based on participant satisfaction, while 18% evaluate their impact based on a change in knowledge or skills. While these are valid metrics, they are somewhat surface-level, failing to investigate behavioural change and broader organisational impacts.
Only 13% of L&D teams go deeper and assess changes in learner behaviour by looking at the transfer of learning into the workplace. Finally, just 8% of L&D teams assess the impact of their learning initiatives by evaluating the broader impact on their organisation. To truly grasp the impact of your learning projects, these are both vital metrics.
While most L&D teams have positive intentions, their impact can be lacking when evaluating learning projects. As mentioned, several factors contribute to this, including lack of program evaluation skills, poor-quality data to benchmark against, lack of time and funding, clashing business priorities, and surface-level evaluation metrics.
To overcome these roadblocks, two key recommendations stand out. Firstly, L&D teams should strive to gather high-quality qualitative and quantitative data throughout the entirety of a learning program, not just after it has concluded.
Secondly, teams should have clearly defined outcomes in mind before engaging in a learning project, then gather data to measure the success of your initiative against these desired outcomes. After all, without measurable performance outcomes, it is almost impossible to continuously improve your learning projects.
Improving your learning projects can often sound like a vague and overwhelming goal. Where do you even start? To help you get your head around it, here is a checklist of 10 questions you should ask to continuously improve your learning projects.
Looking for more ways to improve your learning projects? Be sure to read our articles on improving ROI metrics and selecting digital learning content for your next project.