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Speaking Their Language: Presenting Learning and Development in C-Suite Terms
By Sandra Neal

As we plan for the end of 2017, it’s time to show company leaders how our learning & development programs have made an impact this year. You might be tracking data about number of participants, hours spent learning, and hopefully evidence that employees gained knowledge from training. You might even be able to show that employees changed their behavior as a result of training. But can you show how these learning programs moved the needle on your company’s goals for the year? If this sounds foreign or confusing, you’re not alone.

 Most executives don’t expect to see this kind of metric for their learning programs. It’s not the way things have traditionally been done. But if the Sales department, for example, came to a year-in-review meeting, they would get funny looks if they talked about how many sales calls had been completed, how much the clients liked what the sales team had to say, and how many follow-up emails had been exchanged. Instead, executives expect to hear how many sales were closed, how that compared to the projections at the beginning of the year, and perhaps how profitable the contracts were expected to be.

This difference is important because of how executives view the business. If the Sales team talked about their activities alone, executives would mentally be noting all of the costs associated with those activities. When times get tight, costs get cut. On the other hand, if the Sales team leads with the value they added to help the company meet its goals, then that value may cancel out the costs of all that activity. The team is seen as adding value and solving business problems.


How can we use the same concept to show how learning adds value to our organizations? The short answer (in this limited space) is for companies to set specific, measurable goals, identify the roles of all departments who could contribute to the success of those goals, and forecast how those departments will move the needle over the course of the coming year. Here’s a sample of how that could look, in a way that executives are accustomed to seeing numbers:

To learn more about this idea, visit the Center for Talent Reporting. Their Sample Statements section provides a variety of examples like the one above to get your creativity flowing. It’s not an easy transition to move from demonstrating knowledge gain to demonstrating business outcome, but it’s worthwhile to show how employee development programs benefit more than just employees’ brains.

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Chattanooga Area Chapter of ATD
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