I had the opportunity to participate in a “Learning Think Tank” call the other day that had many esteemed learning leaders and industry analysts participating. The question of the day was centered around ‘what metrics are shared/used with your corporate leadership team to help drive training business awareness, needs, funding, growth etc’. Let it be said that everyone on the call had a different opinion on what a meaningful metric was. The metrics ranged from the old tried and true ‘revenue & margin’, to the altruistic “training just makes sense”. Everyone on the phone has been leading training businesses for quite sometime, everyone on the phone had experience dealing with the C-suite, everyone on the phone was searching for that perfect metric that makes your leadership team stand up and applaud and shout out “Yes! that is exactly what we have been looking for!”
As I listened to the varying answers it struck me that it really does depend on what you are trying to do with your business. If you are positioned to support product adoption you may be looking at metric specifically tied to driving license/subscription sales, you may be measuring things like the behavior of a trained customer, what does it mean for support call reduction etc. If you are positioned as a revenue generating arm of the services business you may measuring similar things but also looking for attach rate, inclusion rate and deal size data. You may be trying to find the right balance between margin & revenue (let’s face it..most of us are measured on those goals) but in the long run I think it has more to do with the current culture at your company. I think we could gather metrics until the cows come home but if they are not in line with the corporate strategy and they do not map to the leadership flavor of the month/quarter/year then you are not going to be heard.
I think it’s entirely possible to figure out what they want, give it to them and serve your needs at the same time. It’s a matter of getting inside the heads of the people who are making the decisions about your business. If you report up through a sales organization you are more likely to be heard if you can present metrics related to how training drives more license/subscription revenue. Of course, this has to be coupled with a quality customer experience because the last thing your sales organization wants to deal with at quarter close (or any other time for that matter) is an unhappy customer. Customers will use a poor experience in the classroom, with e-learning etc to hold the sales person hostage during the negotiation cycle and believe me, you don’t want your organization to be “that guy”. If you are reporting through a product business unit or a support organization you may be more likely to be measured on the behaviors of a trained customer (do they use more features, do they call support less, are they more loyal to the company etc). At the end of the day all of these metrics are intertwined. However, I do think that some of the more traditional metrics that learning organizations have used have gone by the wayside for customer facing training. It’s not as meaningful to report how many hours of content there are available, to list credentials of your staff, to share smile sheet data etc. If we want to gain the respect/ear of our corporate leadership teams we have to translate what we do in to business terms. It has to be about the value we bring to a customer, sales cycle, bottom line & most importantly to the customer who is consuming our services.
The bottom line is that we owe it to each other, as an industry, to come up with a set of standards that we can keep in our tool kits and make part of the executive vernacular. This came up at the most recent CEdMA conference in Boston as well. It seems we are all screaming for it.