This year, I had the pleasure of being the Program Chair for the 2015 Association for Talent Development Puget Sound Workplace Learning Conference. It is a joy of mine to develop learning events and work alongside some of the top practitioners and thought-leaders in the field. I select speakers who will inspire and challenge participants. In today's blog, I'm sharing the first of five ah-hah moments I had, and tips for how to improve your ability to make a business case for learning.
On April 29th, 102 of the region’s brightest minds in talent development filled Mercer Island Community Center to explore what it means to make a business case for learning. We practiced resolving technical, adaptive and systemic barriers and solutions to identifying, aligning, evaluating and communicating the value of learning.
In my last post, I reflected on the three questions I'm drawn to when I think about building a business case for learning: What is the purpose and value of learning? What is the purpose and value of organizations? What is my purpose and value?
I also shared that learning is my practice of liberation. I believe that the purpose of learning is to “reveal and tap into those energies that make possible the full human enjoyment of a meaningful and productive existence” (Harris and Morrison, 2003, p.1). I believe that businesses play an integral role in building economics for peace. And, I believe that my purpose is to welcome, cultivate, and exemplify the potential for learning in human relationships.
In this post I'm sharing the first of five ah-hah moments I had from the conference, and tips for building a business case for learning:
1) Be explicit and be specific. Don’t wait to measure.
We all have an internal judge asking and answering the question, “was it worth it?” Was dinner worth it? Was the conference worth it? Was the job change worth it? It's in our nature to evaluate our experiences and determine if the return was worth the investment.
As individuals, we’re wired to determine if something was “worth it.” Most often, these are snap judgements, made inside of our heads, unbeknownst to others. They're informed by our culture of origin, environment, and past experiences.
The key for teams and organizations is to build a collective assessment, and to do that we must be explicit and specific. Don't wait to measure the impact of a purchase, experience or learning. Anticipate the return on investment.
If you want to increase your ability to communicate ROI, start by measuring everything, being specific, and being explicit.
Start today: your morning coffee. How do you know if your coffee was “worth it?” Are you measuring the price, temperature, flavor, speed of your barista, if it was organic, or how it paired with your breakfast? Out loud, identify why you are drinking coffee, why you choose the coffee shop you choose, and how you will know the ROI of your coffee.
Next, conduct some action research with your colleagues. What are their coffee preferences? How will they know if they’ve had the perfect cup of coffee?
This is a fun and easy exercise to help you practice being specific, being explicit, and creating a habit of anticipating and measuring ROI. Practice this for the next week. Then apply the same process to a new pair of shoes, or an office meeting. Then to a project, and then to a learning program.
Stay tuned for my next post: Ah-hah #2 Measuring ROI Beyond Money.