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Making it simple to improve impact

Assessing the impact a learning solution is having can be complex. The Improving Impact Tool has been built to align and improve the business impact of L&D.
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Michelle Ockers - Guest Contributor
2022-09-27

Over the past year, the Emerging Stronger team has developed a series of tools. These are built to make it simple for L&D professionals to embrace evidence-informed tactics to improve business impact. In the Sixth (and final) of this series of “Making it Simple to Do the Right Thing”, Michelle Ockers walks us strategically through the Improving Impact Tool.

Table: Who is the Improving Impact Tool for

You can download the Improving Impact Tool here.

Missed opportunities 

When you talk about how your learning solutions add value, do you tend to focus on learning metrics like activity and engagement? Or are you comfortable and adept at discussing the business impact of your work, and linking it to a sound up-front needs analysis?

Even when L&D has worked with the business to be clear on what needs to be achieved, we tend to then work independently. We may get input from Subject Matter Experts as we curate content or develop a learning solution. However, we only occasionally engage others in solution development and delivery. Similarly, our evaluation mindset and practices limit the potential benefits available to us. We are often too inwardly focused, seeking to demonstrate how we add learning value. However, this doesn’t tell us whether our solutions have any impact on performance. 

Here we will guide you through using the Improving Impact Tool – with some handy hints on how to best incorporate this tool into yours and your manager’s toolkit.

Interdependence and continuous improvement

According to the 2021 Learning Performance Benchmark Report, only 12% of L&D teams collect learning intelligence from line managers.

This is indicative of the the opportunity to engage others, particularly managers, to create shared ownership of solutions and responsibility to increase impact. Adopting a continuous improvement mindset regarding the purpose of evaluation leads to very different practices and outcomes. Engage in ongoing smarter conversations with managers that focus on key areas linked to improving impact, using evidence to inform your conversations and guide you to adapt your course.

This tool helps you to have smarter conversations to improve the impact of learning solutions in order to help you:

  • Engage others, particularly managers, to create shared ownership of solutions
  • Approach evaluation with a growth mindset
  • Efficiently identify and make evidence-informed improvements to solutions
  • Increase the business impact of solutions
  • Demonstrate the value that solutions have added 
  • Gather, use and share appropriate data to achieve all of the above

Quote graphic: Only 12% of L&D teams collect learning intelligence from line managers.

The tool at a glance

The tool offers straightforward, practical evaluation steps that can be undertaken with limited time and basic data literacy. 

The tool includes templates to guide you through a series of 30 minute conversations with managers whose team members are participating in a learning intervention. It also includes three separate conversation guides to help you prepare for and have smarter conversations (A) before, (B) during and (C) after a learning intervention. It includes visual ‘roadmaps’ of key check-in points in the life of both short and longer, more complex interventions.

Each conversation consists of three steps: 

Step 1 – Prepare for the conversation

  1. Review the conversation guide
  2. Define conversation purpose
  3. Identify invitees and book the conversation
  4. Review actions from preceding conversations and update the action log
  5. Tailor the conversation guide if appropriate 
  6. Gather data

Step 2 – Have the conversation

  1. Ask questions as per the conversation guide
  2. Note decisions and outcomes in the guide
  3. Agree actions and note them in the action log

Step 3: Follow-up the conversation

  1. Provide conversation participants with a copy of the competed guide with your notes
  2. Complete your actions
  3. Continue monitoring completion of agreed actions

Each guide provides suggestions for when to have the conversation, specific preparation and questions to explore. You’ve got space to note outcomes and an action log template to keep track of actions from all of your conversations for a specific intervention in one place.

The real secret sauce in this tool that sets it apart from other ‘evaluation’ approaches, is the emphasis on gathering evidence that allows you to take immediate action. For example, the questions in the ‘During a learning intervention’ guide are in three sections titled:

  • Supporting participants to take action in their work
  • Enabling managers to support their teams
  • Evaluating progress against business metrics

What are you waiting for? I bet you have a learning intervention underway right now that you can use this tool to improve impact. Download the tool for guidance notes and templates for each of the Improving Impact conversations.

Scaling success in your organization

Context varies, so here’s some ideas to help you apply this tool in different situations to gain impact.

Table: Benefits and impacts of the Improving Impact Tool

Next steps

Pick your start point – a solution in development where you can identify a manager who cares about business impact and is willing to partner with you. Try using the tool with limited customization the first time, then experiment and refine how you are using it for best results.

Improving Impact offers a fresh way of thinking about the purpose of evaluation, and a straightforward practical approach that shares responsibility for monitoring progress and driving higher business impact. It’s good for you, good for the managers, and good for your business!

Over time these smarter conversations will shift your relationship with managers, lift your business impact, and boost your credibility and reputation as a value-adding business partner.

Quote graphic: Over time these smarter conversations will shift your relationship with managers, lift your business impact, and boost your credibility and reputation as a value-adding business partner.

In this series we have seen that most of the tools in the Go1 Step Further Toolkit work just fine on their own, but work at their best when combined with other complementary tools. This is especially the case for the Needs Analysis Tool and Improving Impact Tool.

You can download the Improving Impact Tool here.

Use the Improving Impact Tool with others in this series

Needs Analysis Tool: Use this tool to define business outcomes for a learning intervention before you start designing it, and then tracking and driving achievement of these outcomes through your Improving Impact conversations. 

Curation Decision Tool: Use the curation decision tool to carefully curate quality resources, then review the use and value of those resources in your Improving Impact conversations. Review and refine your curation decisions.

Power Hour Tool: Use the Power Hour tool to run a complementary team session to reflect on and engage them in driving the impact of a learning intervention.

Communication Plan Launch ToolUse the communication planning tool to improve awareness of, and engagement with, your continuous improvement activities as you launch learning interventions and share improvement actions.

You may also be interested in the previous blogs in this series:
Making it simple to conduct a needs analysis conversation
, where Shannon Tipton covers delivering valuable content with the Needs Analysis Tool.
Making it simple to curate with impact,
which dives into moving beyond learning aggregation with the Curation Decision Tool.
Making it simple to engage with managers
Making it simple to engage with managers, Laura Overton talks through improving engagement with managers with The Power Hour Tool.

Making it simple to market learning and increase engagement,
 with Laura Overton exploring how to best spread the word on your learning solution with the Communication Plan Launch Tool.
Making it simple to cultivate learning in workplace communities, where Shannon Tipton presents ways to empower the communities at play with the Cultivating Learning Tool.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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