When you talk to businesspeople, you must speak as they do. Executives only care about training as it relates to execution. Their interest is in moving the corporation forward. You should share that interest. That is what they pay you for.
A sponsor is the person who pays those bills. Sponsors are responsible for championing the case for change (i.e., the vision), visibly representing the change (i.e., walking the talk), and providing reassurance and confidence (i.e., the implementation plan).
Someone once interrupted me during a webinar when I was talking about how trainers need to be aware of corporate objectives and rate their contributions by their impact on the business. “Wouldn’t that require us to understand how the business worked?” he asked. Yes, of course. How could you do your job right without knowing how the corporation worked? Several others jumped in, essentially saying that organizational success and helping to meet strategic objectives was “not my job.”
The days when corporations were larded with layer upon layer of management whose job was to translate strategic imperatives from above into job descriptions and projects down below are long gone. Now all of us are supposed to sing from the same hymnal without the intermediaries.
Measure results throughout your program, not just before and after. Keep your sponsor informed. Frequency is sometimes more important than quantity. Monitoring things early on may enable you to make midcourse corrections.
The Responsibilities You Share
Peter Drucker, hailed as the father of management, is a business guru’s guru. Drucker singled out eight characteristics of effective executives:
- They asked, “What needs to be done?”
- They asked, ‘‘What is right for the enterprise?”
- They developed action plans.
- They took responsibility for decisions.
- They took responsibility for communicating.
- They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
- They ran productive meetings.
- They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”
The Metrics Cycle
There’s no cookie-cutter formula for applying metrics, but there is an underlying process.
Generally, you’ll follow these five steps to identify, agree upon, assess and use metrics. This is not rocket science. It’s the same process you already use to accomplish a lot of things in life.
Let’s briefly consider each step.
1. State the desired outcome. Results do not exist inside the training department. In fact, results do not exist within the business. Results come from outside the business. Imagine a no-nonsense businessperson, such as Jack Welch, GE’s former boss. If you can explain yourself to Jack, you’ve mastered this step.
2. Agree on how to measure. The only valid metrics for corporate learning are business metrics. Examples are increased sales, shorter time to market, fewer rejects and lower costs. How do you decide what measures to apply? You don’t. That’s the responsibility of your business sponsor, the person who signs the checks. Together you agree on what’s to be done and how you’ll measure success or failure. Once you’ve settled on the project and its metrics, get it in writing.
3. Execute projects. The projects could be training, an incentive bonus plan or more advertising. Training programs are often part of a larger scheme, and it’s fruitless to try to isolate them. In fact, savvy training directors look for major corporate initiatives they can hitch a ride on.
4. Assess the results. You must evaluate the impact of your efforts with the measures you set up back in the second step. In other words, you are not allowed to mimic Charlie Brown, who would shoot an arrow and then paint the target around it. Why stick with the measures you came up with before? Because that’s how you maintain credibility with your sponsor. You can bring up unforeseen outcomes or anecdotal evidence, so long as you follow up on those original methods first.
5. Begin anew. The only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from experience. Your post-mortem on the completed project should include a section titled “What to do better next time.”