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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Intermediate Factors in Learning

In Measure Intermediate or Final Factors, Brent responded to my posting: Technology: Intermediate Factors in Learning.

Brent and I (and Jay Cross and lots of others) agree that measures of butts in seats, number of completions, etc. are generally not that useful in telling what impact we are having on what matters to the business.

Where Brent and I really seem to disagree, and I've seen this other places is the importance of Intermediate Factors.

The key to almost every engagement for me is understanding how human performance drives the business. Yes, the client hires me to improve business results which is always ultimately around Revenue or Cost. Most of the time the client already measures intermediate factors such as Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty, Quality, etc. All of these are known to have impact on Revenue and Cost.

Most of my clients have some understanding of how human performance impacts these measures as well, but most often they have not fleshed this out to the level that is needed. Thus, if they tell me that they care about Revenue and they really want to look at improving Customer Satisfaction because that is the biggest predictor of Revenue. Then, I will drill down to what impacts Customer Satisfaction. Some aspects I won't be able to affect, but other aspects are within our ability to influence. So, we will continue down the path.

If they are a more sophisticated organization and have Customer Satisfaction Surveys, then likely we'll already have some very interesting intermediate factors defined. In home improvement retail, associates ability to tell customers where particular products are and getting them to the product is a big factor in customer satisfaction. Together with my client I will now agree that what I'm really trying to do is to impact these further intermediate measures such as the results of the Cust Sat Surveys around Associate Help in Finding Products. Likely I will further drill down on this to break it into Knowledge and Skill Components such as (a) Knowledge of Store Layout, (b) Knowledge of Product Categories/Types, (c) Handling of Customer Questions around Product Location.

I then do the most important thing with my client. I get agreement that what they are hiring me for is not to increase Revenue (end Factor), but rather to provide mechanisms that will impact these Knowledge and Skill Components in a way that improves scores on the particular Question (all are intermediate factors). In fact, when I work with the store managers as part of the intervention, I will make sure that they understand the relationships here and understand why these intermediate factors are important. Ultimately, the Causal Relationship that we believe will result in:

  • If we improve Knowledge of Store Layout, Product Categories/Types, and How to Handle Customer Questions,
  • we will improve the customer experience (as exhibit in how they rate us on that questions),
  • which will improve customer satistfaction,
  • which will improve revenue.

Much of what we do in Learning is making sure we understand these Intermediate Factors.

Keywords: eLearning Trends, Informal Learning

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