Tony Karrer's eLearning Blog on e-Learning Trends eLearning 2.0 Personal Learning Informal Learning eLearning Design Authoring Tools Rapid e-Learning Tools Blended e-Learning e-Learning Tools Learning Management Systems (LMS) e-Learning ROI and Metrics

Monday, May 04, 2009

Improved Learning or Business Benefits

Looking at the responses in Social Learning Designer to my services positioning template:

For _________ (buyers) we help in their desire to __________ (benefits)
by ________ (services) unlike others we _____________ (differentiation).

There were only three responses:

Jane Hart: I work with learning depts to help them create more participatory, collaborative approaches to learning - rather than just shoving content at people

Colleen Carmean: for learning orgs, we help in their desire to increase knowledge within the org by shaping systems that make info needed available to anyone at anytime. Unlike others, we do this by creating distributed spaces, places and tools for sharing, finding and creating knowledge.

John: For learning organizations we help build productive, skilled, thinking individuals and teams. Unlike others we do this in a collaborative, active, constructive manner.

This sparked a couple of quick thoughts …

Buyers / Audience – Learning Dept / Organizations

I'm guessing that each of these responses are from a vendor perspective as they define the audience the same and it's not the organization itself, it's the learning organization / department. 

Benefits – Learning / Knowledge

In my post Social Learning Measurement – Will Thalheimer points out

there are basically three reasons to measure learning:
1. To prove benefits
2. To improve the intervention
3. To improve learning.

And I think you could make an argument that our benefits could fall in any of the three camps:

  1. business benefits,
  2. better interventions,
  3. improved learning.

When I read each of the benefits above, I read them to be 3 - improved learning.  The closest to a real business benefit is "productive, skilled, thinking individuals" – but that's still a distance from what most business people would think of in terms of real business benefits.

This is really a critical positioning issue …

is our benefit improved learning or business benefits?

I realize there will be times for us to define ourselves as one or the other, but I hope that we seek to define ourselves in terms of business benefit.

In my post Social Learning Measurement – there are a host of things that we can measure around Social Learning (which was the focus of the post where these responses occurred).  These include things like:

  • Networking patterns
  • Learning efficiency
  • Learning outcomes
  • Contribution patterns 
  • Content usage patterns
  • Content quality
  • Idea to development initiation cycle time
  • Retention/Employee turn over
  • Time to hire
  • Prospect identification cost
  • Prospect to hire conversion rate
  • Hiring cost
  • Training cost
  • Time to acclimation for new employees

And most of these really are measuring learning outcomes or Intermediate Factors in Learning (see also Intermediate Factors). 

Real business outcomes really fall into either: increased revenue or reduced cost.  The rest are accepted intermediate factors for the business such as improved time-to-market, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, etc.  And there can be lots of these intermediate factors.

So going back to a positioning question – I wonder if we shouldn't all be talking about specific kinds of business outcomes or intermediate factors that can be achieved?


John said...

You are 100% correct. We need to focus on business objectives. Especially in this economy, this helps businesses see the value of employee learning.

I'm John J. McDermott; now I just have to get the changes in my profile to sync...

Tony Karrer said...

John - that at first had me laugh. Then I realized how important yet pervasive this is - and I include myself in that. I'm sure all my profiles and descriptions are not nearly where they should be ...

I've put the laugh away ...