Weaving a Value Story: Using Business Impact To Demonstrate L&D Success
A value story will help you demonstrate the business impact of your training programme. Business impact is the lifeblood of your L&D budget. If you’re unable to demonstrate it, your budget will wither away altogether!
Yet, it’s notoriously hard to pin down. It can feel a bit like playing hide and seek in a pitch-black labyrinth – when you think you’ve finally tracked down your business impact, you realise it’s just another empty passageway.
If you can relate to that, then think of this blog like your map. It’ll lead you through the maze of corridors direct to your grail – provable business impact. You’ll be feeling like the Indiana Jones of L&D in no time!
It’s a ten-step process, but if you follow each of the ten steps you’ll come out the other side with a value story that will speak to your organisation’s management in language they understand.
The 10 Steps To Business Impact
Work Out What Your Business Values Most
To truly understand your executive’s priorities, you need to understand the ‘why’ of your company. This why is the reason your business exists, its unique purpose.
Of course, working out why the organisation you work for exists isn’t as simple as you might hope.
If you work for an electronics company, it doesn’t exist simply to create electronic devices. Rather, it might exist to bring the world closer together or to bring joy to people’s lives.
To work out your organisation’s ‘why’ you’ll need to spend time gathering together all the different pieces of the puzzle. When you put them together it will create a clear picture of your organisation’s priorities.
To help inform you on your quest to uncover your business’s top priorities, here are some resources you could seek out and exercises you could undertake:
- Mission statements
- Your organisation’s values
- Strategic business plans
- Outline your organisation’s current culture
- Conduct interviews
Understand the Priorities of Your Executives
In most organisation’s it’s the senior management who hold the purse strings. This means it’s their opinions that carry weight.
Once you know what really matters to your executives you can work backwards to understand what you need to track to prove your success.
Write each of the priorities in a document and print it out. You could even frame it and put it on your desk. That’s how incredibly important these priorities are to you, make sure that you and your team live and breathe these priorities.
If you get into the habit of asking the question ‘How are we impacting our organisation’s priorities?’. You’ll find the effectiveness of your learning and development will rapidly increase.
Work out How Your Training Impacts These Priorities
It can be hard to relate the training you do to your organisation’s top priorities. But in almost all situations it can be done. Even for the likes of health and safety or compliance, where on the surface it feels much harder to prove their value.
A practical strategy you can use for all the training you do is to ask ‘Why does this matter?’. Then keep asking. And asking. And asking.
It’s no different to the game a child will play with their parents. ‘Why? Why? Why?’ Except, this exercise won’t end with an irate ‘Because I said so!’. It will end with you finding the tangible impact your training makes on your organisation.
Here’s an example for training that helps learners communicate effectively:
Why is this training important? It will help learners to get better at communication.
Okay, why is this important? We’ve identified poor communication is a major problem in our organisation.
Keep going… It causes all kinds of unnecessary roadblocks and problems.
Which management will care about because..? These roadblocks are reducing the efficiency of our company and increasing the amount of time it takes to deliver projects.
And why will executives care? The longer it takes to deliver a project the more it costs us. By improving communication we’re able to reduce project delivery time, increasing organisational efficiency and ultimately, saving our business money.
Choose Metrics Which Demonstrate the Impact of Your Training
With a clear idea of how your training will impact your business, you will be able to identify the metrics you’ll need to measure.
You simply need to work out which metrics will enable you to prove the final ‘why’ we mentioned in stage three. In that example, the metric to measure would be project delivery time and reduced cost.
Create a Plan for How You Will Measure These Metrics
It’s one thing to work out what you need to measure. But it’s an entirely different thing to work out how you will measure it.
It’s particularly hard if you want to demonstrate the business impact of your training. It’s not enough to present statistics such as logins and completion rates which show learners have done the training.
You need to go one further and demonstrate what this means.
The most effective way to make the business impact of your training crystal clear is by using a control group.
This allows you to directly compare the performance of your learners who completed your training with the performance of those who didn’t. With this crucial information, you’ll be able to create a clear case for business impact.
In fact, it’s so effective it’s one of the primary methods used in science and research. This is because it gives clear and accurate results.
Kick-off Your New Training Campaign
At this stage, it’s essential you remember to design your training campaign with its evaluation in mind.
Outline the control group and the test group. Make sure that nobody in the control group completes the training and that everyone in your test group does.
Reinforce the Training
If you want your training to deliver meaningful business impact then it’s essential to reinforce it.
The more thoroughly you reinforce your training, the more effectively it will combat The Forgetting Curve. It’s only when learners truly know something that it’s able to make its way into their daily behaviours.
Behaviour change is oxygen for business impact. Remove behaviour change from your training and your business impact will entirely fizzle away.
Collect Your Data
With your training finished and your learners’ behaviour thoroughly changed for the better, you can collect your data. To do this you need to measure your chosen metric for both your control group and for those who completed your training.
It’s important to collect all the data you possibly can, the more data you have, the more information you can use to present a value story to your executives.
Craft a Powerful Value Story
Communicating the value you bring isn’t simply about popping some juicy figures in an email and firing it off to the high and mighty.
Instead, you need to weave a powerful narrative that breathes life into the value you bring. It’s true that money talks. But you need to make sure that it’s talking about what you want it to.
Presenting the business impact of your training as a story helps contextualise it. It will also help lodge it in the memory of your leadership.
To tell a good story you need:
The characters are the lucky people who get to complete your training. Why not tell your leadership a bit about them?
There are seven basic plots:
Overcoming the Monster – You could use this if your training is remedying a problem that your organisation is struggling with.
Rags to Riches – The perfect way to describe learners who knew nothing beforehand, but have been transformed by your training.
Quest – Is the key to improvement a rare and hidden behaviour your learners had to work hard to earn?
Voyage – Have your learners been on a journey of discovery and ended up in a new world?
Comedy – According to Booker, the comedy plot is about resolving confusion. You may not feel bold enough to deliver a comical value story, but you might find it a useful way to present training related to organisational culture.
Tragedy – … Best give this one a miss…
Rebirth – Perhaps the perfect plot for you to highlight the business impact of your training. An organisation, once in the grip of living death has been freed to deliver value and increase profits!
Here’s our very own Juliette Denny talking about the 7 basic plots:
In every good story there’s something that needs fixing. With yours, it’s the behaviour that needed fixing in the first place. Make sure to clearly describe what the problem is and why it was so urgent to fix it.
In a well-told story, a lot of time is spent describing why the issue is so important. A vivid picture is painted that shows the cost of the crisis. In Star Wars, so much time is spent showing you how evil the Empire is, by the time Luke gets a lightsaber you’re fully behind his plan to dish out some Jedi justice!
The same is true in Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games or even The Incredibles.
All good stories come to a satisfying conclusion. This means that your value story needs its very own ‘happily ever after’. How does your data allow you to end your value story?
If your training made a measurable impact on the problem you were solving, what was the impact?
Make sure it’s exceedingly clear to your management what the resolution of your story was. How did your training fix the problem?
Bring the Story Together
Combine your characters, plot, problem and resolution and you have yourself a full-fledged value story. It should explain what the problem was and who it was affecting. It should then explain how you fixed the problem and what the end result was. Make sure that the end result spells out the business impact of your training.
Make Sure Your Entire Company Hear Your Story
Now that you’ve woven a world-class value story, you need to tell the world! You need to make absolutely, 100% entirely certain your executives know the success of your training. You then need to make sure everyone else in the organisation knows as well.
As people learn about the success of your training, it will gain momentum. Like a snowball rolling downhill, the impact of your training will get bigger and bigger over time.
This is because people will understand that your training is impacting the business.
People get excited about projects that are successful. As an example, imagine being in sales and hearing that those who completed the most recent sales training closed 11% more sales than those who didn’t.
Even more importantly, imagine hearing that they earned 11% more commission! You’d make sure that the next time training rolled out, you jumped on board and got stuck in!
Imagine if all your training had an impact on your business? How incredible would that feel?
Well, the chances are, it does!
You just need to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to track it properly. If you want more top tips on squeezing out some evaluative goodness, why not check out our guidebook: How to Win Your Training Budget?
It’s packed with top tips and practical insights to help you prove your ROI. It even comes with a pre-built ROI calculator!