Everybody will agree that if you don’t spend any dollars on learning, the average number of learning hours will be zero. Furthermore, if you invest a lot in learning, it is likely that the number of learning hours will be high, too. If you assume a linear relationship between those variables, you would get a 45-degree line.
Figure 1 shows learning investment levels and average number of training hours. This comparison leads to several interesting observations:
- There is a wide distribution on both spending levels and on the average number of learning hours.
- There are companies with relatively low spending levels that provide their employees with a relatively high number of learning hours (and vice versa).
- There are companies that have the same level of investment, but see very different output in terms of number of learning hours.
Economists typically look at efficiency and effectiveness to explain this. From an efficiency perspective, there are companies that are able to do more with their learning dollars than others. This might be due to their ability to:
- Reduce indirect and administrative (transactional) learning costs.
- Automate most learning business processes (e.g., training needs analyses, course registrations, approvals, evaluations, distribution of training materials).
- Outsource and/or offshore learning capabilities.
- Centralize learning capabilities to avoid overlap.
- Move toward an e-learning delivery model that provides significantly increased learning hours for less cost than classroom training.
Another approach to clarify the differences in spending levels and total number of learning hours is to look at the effectiveness of the learning and ask:
- Did the learning investments build critical capabilities needed for the business?
- Did the learning investments help the enterprise attract, develop or retain talent?
- Did the learning investments support the implementation of strategic business initiatives?
Deeper investigation might reveal which of these factors in efficiency and effectiveness support more targeted, strategic and cost-effective learning.
However, at a minimum, it is compelling for each individual enterprise to measure more than the simplistic data offered by overall learning investment and the number of training hours. More important is the measurement of the contribution learning is making to the achievement of strategic performance, leveraging efficiencies offered by 21st century Internet-learning-based capabilities and the creation of shareholder value.
Nick van Dam is Deloitte’s global chief learning officer for the consulting practice. He is author of “The E-Learning Fieldbook,” published by McGraw-Hill (www.elearningfieldbook.com) For more information, e-mail Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.