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Mind The Gap

By Russell Kenrick, Managing Director at ILX Group | 16 March 2016

Half of projects fail to deliver the expected business benefits. Learning and development professionals face the challenge of helping their organisation bridge the gap between the learning provided and the business benefits expected.

Increasingly Learning & Development (L&D) professionals are deploying the latest mobile learning platforms to try to close this gap. Yet too often they do not do the work required upfront to understand business goals. As a result, they do not know where to start when it comes to identifying the performance shortfalls that are creating the business benefits gap.

Poor commissioning of learning delivery has been a major cause of the yawning chasm between some learning initiatives and the hoped-for business benefits.

L&D experts have traditionally followed a four-step process comprising needs analysis; learning design; learning delivery and finally learning transfer. More clued up practitioners have added on a final step of checking that performance improvement has been achieved.

Extend the Learning Chain

However, Kevin Lovell’s Learning Chain model recommends extending this five-step process. The aim is that more work is carried out even before the needs analysis stage, to gain a full understanding of wider business goals so that training can be aligned with what the business wants to achieve. After that, it is crucial to identify where the performance shortfalls lie before a meaningful training needs analysis can be carried out.

At the end of the Learning Chain, after assessing performance improvement, it is important to conclude with an evaluation of the business benefits that have been achieved. At this stage, ask the question, “Have we delivered the planned business benefits?”

At ILX we have seen the impact that mobile learning can have on closing the business benefits gap. There is a major ‘techno-environmental’ factor driving the uptake of mobile learning – Google stats from May 2015 show that 91% of smartphone users will turn to their devices for ideas while completing a task. Mobile devices are part of everyday life and learning and corporate L&D folks need to tap into that. In its report, ‘The Modern Learner’, Bersin by Deloitte states, “Employees today are turning to search engines for information and know-how, often in their moments of need and without them leaving their workflow.”

Here are five tips to ensure mobile learning delivers business benefits:

1. Identify the performance gap. Gauge the gap between business goals and actual performance. A lot of people buy plain vanilla project management training without having a detailed understanding of where their skills gaps lie.

2. Customise training to address gaps. Addressing the specific areas that need development will result in the biggest performance improvement. This doesn’t need to cost the earth. Investment in identifying and addressing specific needs will be more than repaid by savings on budget spent on too much generic training and by successful projects meeting business goals. Previously proven training modules can fill gaps; the training does not have to be developed and tailored from scratch every time.

3. Blend training delivery. Classroom training is not dead but is best supported by flexible mobile learning tools.

4. Factor in ‘Earned Value’. Monitor the value of completed useful work related to the budget assigned to that work, in order to compare the earned value to planned and actual costs.

5. Measure results to make sure you have closed the performance gap. A clear understanding of performance issues can help with finding KPIs that demonstrate that you have met your goals. Then communicate successes throughout the organisation.

Effective mobile learning carries on delivering benefits beyond the initial rollout. Research shows that learning is very quickly forgotten and more than 25 per cent of learning has been forgotten only a month on. A mobile learning strategy allows us to address that – content remains at the learner’s fingertips and they can refresh their knowledge as often as necessary to continue delivering business goals.

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