Learning doesn’t really have a material form. Sure, there are classrooms, computers, and instructors and these are all real. But the customer is buying training, or learning. The actual service has no consistent form. Everyone who uses it has a unique experience and a subjective view of the value. They associate the expense with their experience. It’s not like buying a tool or stocking up on paper towels, where use may come long after the purchase price is forgotten. Instead they expect that the benefits of the service will be immediately apparent. So managing expectations about the value of learning is critically important.
All CLOs care about producing results. And they care about how those results are viewed by the organization. All use analytics, ROI calculations, and levels of evaluation.
Great CLOs do three things that make establishing the value of the learning function systemic.
1. They create, manage, and message a clear value proposition.
Will they be the low cost alternative? The custom shop? The value proposition can be based on speed, quality, safety, ease of acquisition or use, a myriad of other things, or a combination of two or more. But they are deliberate and calculated choices.
The value proposition drives the product and service portfolio. It determines the balance of facilitation, program administration, consultation, use of technology, design, development, project management, etc. It influences how you leverage things like access, technology, customer interface, and cycle time.
And defining the value proposition drives critical decisions about the business and financial models, structure, and skill set of the learning function….because you can’t just say so; you have to be able to deliver.
2. They use the metrics of the organization as the metrics for learning.
Every organization already measures what they think is critical. Sales, cost per unit produced, contributions received, market share, quota attainment, performance to plan, etc. Great CLOs describe the success of learning interventions using those same metrics. At the start of each intervention they ask: What measurable business results will be evidence of success?
Ultimately, the impact of the learning function is the aggregate of all individual interventions, products or services. Great CLOs don’t invent new metrics or try to convince the organization to adopt them. They make sure that their team negotiates a contract specifying business outcomes up front each time.
3. They measure the quality, efficiency, and customer satisfaction of the learning function.
The impact of training is the most important measure. But how well the learning function is managed is also critical. Every part of every organization is obligated to improve over time. Results should be produced more cheaply than last year, with higher quality, reduced cycle time, better utilization of resources, and higher customer satisfaction. Great CLOs measure and report the improvements that their function is making and deliver the message in the context of the clearly stated value proposition.
John Coné is principal of The Eleventh Hour Group. firstname.lastname@example.org