How L&D teams can move from activity metrics to business metrics

Every month or every quarter, and certainly at the end of the year, employees are asked to produce reports that show how their work is going. Considering how hard people work to deliver for their businesses, it’s almost painful to see how many of those same people fail to account for their work in a way that shows their impact and value.

This problem is particularly evident in learning and development. In learning and development, measurement often falls flat and teams report on overly simple metrics like “lessons delivered” and “number of attendees.” The best L&D team leaders know they can earn a seat at the table by measuring and reporting the right metrics in the right way.

To learn more about how reports can demonstrate the value delivered by an individual, a team, or even an entire business group, I spoke with John Constantine. Constantine is the senior vice president of Orchestral, Inc. and director of Orchestral’s US consulting practice. He has over 25 years of experience in learning and development in the life sciences. In his consulting work, he frequently creates reports and dashboards that drive strategy and demonstrate business value.

The following interview has been edited for clarity.

How to make a Business Report, Not an activity report

Kevin Kruse: What are the biggest challenges and mistakes you see in reporting?

John Constantine: When I look at the reports, I see a lot of Activity Report but very little business impact report. This is the most common mistake, repeated again and again. People report on their project or initiative activity (what they did). This is an understandable error. These operational metrics are important for managing day-to-day business activities, but they mean very little to senior management. Senior management wants to know the impact of your activities, projects or initiatives on the company.

Kruse: What advice do you have for people looking to transition from activity-based reporting to business impact reporting?

Constantine: Whatever your role, the work you do matters. Why not report to management in a way that communicates exactly how important it is?

Here’s what you can do to start making the transition. When a business stakeholder requests a new system, process, project or initiative, don’t just take the order and start delivering. Ask the following types of questions upfront:

  • What are we trying to solve with this new initiative?
  • What is broken, if anything?
  • If we do this new thing, how will we know we’ve been successful?
  • What will we measure?
  • How are we going to collect the right data?

Once you have answers to the above questions, seek stakeholder sponsorship for data collection and reporting.

How a business report can show your Groups Assess

Kruse: What about activity reporting at group level?

Constantine: I work with many business support groups, such as human resources, training and development, IT and compliance. All of these groups have a huge amount of work to do to support the commercial or R&D areas of companies. But I never be called upon to create a business dashboard. It’s usually the last thing on the customer’s mind. Usually I’m called in for some sort of rescue mission. It could mean responding to an audit or inspection, or it could mean that a member of senior management is unhappy with the way things are going and is looking for a new perspective. In almost every case, regardless of why I’m hired as a consultant, I find that they don’t have a real business benefits dashboard in place.

A Case Example: Leveraging Reports to Help a Medical Device Company Enter a Whole New Device Market

Kruse: Can you give an example of a client with whom you have created a rapport?

Constantine: I worked with a medical device company that had been manufacturing Class I devices for years – furniture and exam room instruments. These devices come with the lowest level of FDA regulations. They were moving into making Class II devices – machines for modeling and milling dental implants. Class II devices come with a much higher level of regulation. The client was concerned that its current sales and sales training practices did not meet the requirements of the new level of regulation. They asked us to help them review their training and practices.

Kruse: What type of reporting system have you created with them?

Constantine: For sales, the increased level of regulatory scrutiny for Class II devices meant that some sales practices of the past were no longer permitted. We’ve created new behavioral metrics around sales activity and implemented a way to track those metrics.

For training, we created a plan to track training effectiveness and tie training more directly to business results. We have adopted a model based on 3 levels of metrics:

  1. Organizational impact (business benefits)
  2. Learning efficiency
  3. Operational efficiency

We then created a semi-automated reporting system designed for the training group to present to senior management on a regular basis.

Here is an overview of each:

Organizational impact. This is an example of business benefit metrics for the training function expressed as cost savings, cost avoidance, productivity gains, and other company-specific metrics. The data feeds into the broader SVP business dashboard.

Effectiveness of learning. This is where traditional measures of learning effectiveness are tracked, such as engagement, skill improvement, and return on investment.

Operational efficiency. These operational metrics help the function make day-to-day decisions such as resource allocation and capacity planning.

Start using reports to improve your career and your party

Many people are good at delivering what they’ve been asked to do. Take your work to the next level by creating a process that showcases the value of your work. You’ll likely find that taking the time to create these reports comes with an added benefit beyond demonstrating value. Reports will also act as a sort of thinking tool, helping you strategize, prioritize, and refine your processes around your work.

Kevin Kruse is the founder and CEO of LEADx, a platform that evolves and supports leadership habits through micro-coaching and behavioral nudges. Kevin is also a New York Times bestselling author of Great leaders have no rules, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Managementand Employee Engagement 2.0.

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