For true business impact, focus on job-ready skills, not just knowledge.

5 learnings from the Skillable EXPERIENCE New York panel session.


Proving the business impact of your learning strategy is a conundrum as old as L&D itself — and 99% of Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) and learning teams want to measure it.

However, almost 60% are missing key insights into the job readiness and real-world performance of learners, with only basic measures of content utilization and learner satisfaction.

At Skillable’s Experience New York event, how to measure and improve business impact through hands-on learning was discussed in great detail. Jennifer Messersmith, CLO at Majesco, and Skillable’s recently announced CLO in Residence, Karie Willyerd, shared their experiences of aligning with the business and reporting on the metrics that matter to wider stakeholders.

Here are five insights from the panel session.

Panelists right to left: Majesco's CLO, Jen Messersmith, Skillable's CLO in Residence, Karie Willyerd, & CMO, Sarah Danzl speaking at Skillable's first US-hosted Experience event in New York.

1. Work with the wider business, not against them.

Training and L&D is everybody’s responsibility, not just the education team. Every stakeholder has to be bought in and ready to support your learning strategy, in practical ways (through providing the time and permission to learn and checking on a learner’s progress) as well as role-modeling learning and shaping a strong learning culture.

There are several stakeholders to engage with early on when developing your learning strategy.

The C-Suite: Organizations that involve their CEO in L&D programs report, on average, 45% higher business impact. If you want your learning strategy to translate into real-world business results, you need to understand what your business goals, priorities and pain points are. Where better to get that information than directly from the most senior person accountable for them? If not your CEO, then partner closely with your Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Information Officer (CIO) and heads of departments.

Managers: You rely on your people managers to build the best environment and culture for learning. Their motivation and engagement will translate across their team, giving learners permission and time to learn, a reason for doing so (to unlock future career growth) and alignment with personal goals and team skill needs.

Employees and partners: Those who are doing the learning need to be involved in your strategy development too. Learners can advise on what skills they believe are needed to thrive in their roles and the learning resources that can give them the confidence to perform on the job. A recent Skillable survey found that 67% of professionals want more opportunities to practice what they’re learning in real-world applications; 55% want more real-time feedback on whether they understand their learning material and can properly apply it to their jobs.

The easiest way to get these different groups on board is to build a compelling business case for learning that directly shows how it improves the business, team, and individual prospects.

"I prioritized getting to know my CIO, CFO and Head of IT; understanding their ambitions, concerns, and challenges. I partnered with them to solve their problems by bringing learning solutions in, instead of forcing a new technology on them. I built the relationships and always showed them appreciation."

2. Start reporting business metrics.

L&D has long relied on metrics that show how learning consumption and experience have improved over time. In today’s economic climate, reporting on learning hours, content utilization, learner satisfaction and “likes” are no longer enough. It’s time to think about the value of training and what that means to each business leader. Of course, that can lead to a large variety of different reporting metrics including time-to-competency, customer satisfaction scores and sales effectiveness.

At Majesco, Jennifer explained, there are several measures they are tracking to prove the business impact of their new “Teach me, Show me, Let me try, Test me” hands-on learning program.

“Business impact isn’t an easy thing to measure but we are finding more tactical ways to assess how learning is influencing competency and skill growth. Right now that’s more bandwidth being freed up with our subject matter experts — SMEs — and people onboarding with greater confidence to use their skills in their roles. Longer term we’re looking at implementation timelines and if people feel competent enough with their new skills to move forward in their careers.”

3. Hands-on learning provides business-critical validation.

Core to Majesco’s learning approach is a hands-on element provided by Skillable labs. Indeed, Jennifer highlighted that the scored labs feature gives learners and people/project managers greater confidence of their competency to complete a job or task.

Knowledge-based learning resources play a role in a learning strategy, but they cannot move people the last mile, into skills mastery and confidence that enables them to apply knowledge in their roles. Especially under pressure.

Karie described two scenarios that she worked on over the course of her career: training nuclear engineers and pilots. In both of these roles, hands-on learning was a critical part of getting them ready for a high-pressure role, ensuring safety and helping them perform under pressure. “You need to put people through stress in a safe, non-production environment. Imagine flying a plane in a storm or the Hudson River Miracle scenario. Hours of hands-on training allow individuals to get to the skill mastery needed to perform in the moment of need, under stress, against numerous challenges.”

The same situations are playing out in businesses every day, from a bank’s customer service agent answering and effectively supporting a worried customer who’s experienced fraud, to a cybersecurity team combatting a cyber-attack and a data engineer assuredly migrating a database.

Skillable Experience New York was hosted at City Vineyard at Pier 26, featuring a hands-on wine tasting experience on the rooftop with a view of the NYC skyline.

4. True personalization is built with hands-on learning.

L&D knows that personalization matters, but you cannot get that through generic knowledge-based learning. Skillable found that 57% of learners want training that meets them where they are instead of generic development paths — 59% want learning aligned to their job role. In other words, they want their learning efforts to pay off in the workplace with greater competency, applicability in their roles, skills utilization and relevant career growth.

Level-based learning opportunities are key to career development and preventing someone from feeling “stagnant” in their role. Offering hands-on learning environments gives individuals a space to practice and accelerate their skills, with validation that they are ready to work on the next project or role. Scored labs and real-time feedback can tell an individual exactly what their skill level is today and what they need to learn for their progression.

5. Start small and build.

When asked about the best way to get started, both panelists stressed the need to focus on a handful of mission-critical skills first. With six acquisitions in three and a half years, there were many skills that Majesco could have worked on when they overhauled their learning strategy, but Jennifer understood the importance of honing in on the business’ skill needs.

“We didn’t want our focus to be diluted so we looked at the skills needed for the core product and what products we were selling the most of,” she shared, also highlighting the role of wider colleagues in shaping the strategy, “We asked our SMEs to pick the top three activities that all Majesco employees and partners needed to do to be effective and to free up our SMEs’ time. We asked them about the business pain points. Then we built our hands-on learning labs around that.”

By focusing on a handful of skills that are really needed by the business, you also make it easier to show the top and bottom-line impact that learning is driving for the organization.

Confident woman with skill validation

Bonus tip: Technology is an enabler, not the main star.

New technologies like scored labs, hands-on learning environments and AI, are making it easier than ever to deliver learning that prepares people for the real world, in a personal and highly applicable way. But always start with your business goals and needs first. Centering your learning strategy on the business ensures alignment and impact from day one. Technology is there to support your strategy, not drive it.

Want to bring hands-on learning experiences to your strategy? We can help.

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