While most organizations agree that learning is important for employees, they also struggle to measure the effectiveness of learning programs. Does a training class better prepare the worker to do his or her job? Is productivity or quality enhanced when learning modules are completed? Does the performance of the organization change as a result of training?
Intuitively, the answer is “yes,” yet senior management often requires hard numbers to justify continued or increased investment in learning programs. One way to validate enhanced performance is to treat knowledge gain as a project.
Projects go through five phases in a traditional framework. These are:
- Monitoring and Controlling, and
In the initiation phase, a business case is developed for a project and key stakeholders are identified. For most projects, the planning phase is quite extensive and may last one-third to one-half of the total project lifetime.
Planning includes clearly and succinctly identifying the project scope of work, boundaries and constraints, schedules, costs, risks, and required resources. Clarity of the quality of project elements is also designed during the planning phase as well as training of team members to accomplish the project work.
Implementation of project plans and execution of the project accounts for about another half of the total project life cycle. Execution of every project is different, of course; however, many projects encounter unknown circumstances during implementation. The project manager and key stakeholders must adopt flexible and creative solutions to problems faced during execution in order to deliver project results successfully. This is a key feature of the risk management plan which is used to evaluate, analyze, and prioritize unexpected trouble spots in a project.
At the same time that a project is being implemented, the scope of work is evaluated for performance as compared to the plan (monitoring and controlling). The project sponsor and key stakeholders will be monitoring the project status and progress while the project manager will control the performance of project activities. For instance, if the schedule is falling behind the plan, a project manager can add staff or re-prioritize tasks to speed up the work.
Finally, a project retrospective is conducted during closing. Here the project team addresses what went right, what went wrong, and what could be improved next time.
Learning as a Project
Treating learning activities as a project can formalize skill development and improve the measurement effectiveness of knowledge building. Just as we put forth a business case to justify installation of new equipment, learning must have a clear purpose and expected benefits. These benefits should be documented as part of the learning project’s initiation phase and should be measurable.
As with any project, planning for the learning activity should be detailed and encompass scope, schedule, cost, quality, and risk. Plans should be specific and include boundaries and constraints for the learning activity. For example, mid-level managers will attend a communications training course in person but factory employees may receive the same training form a computer-based module. Certifications in specialized fields should be considered as part of training and learning plans since they are unbiased and measurable demonstrations of successful knowledge and skill building.
Unlike installing a new piece of equipment, execution of learning projects is highly flexible and adaptable. Changes to curricula can be implemented on the fly while feedback (monitoring and controlling) is often immediate. Learning activities can be easily analyzed and evaluated during the project implementation to ensure the goals and objectives are met.
Finally, closing of the learning project must be more substantial than in a typical project. Beyond asking what went right, what went wrong, and what can be improved next time, a learning project must include follow-ups in the field to verify the objectives of the learning event were accomplished (e.g. improved behaviors and performance). The project manager should assess skills after the training and compare them to an assessment taken before the training. Moreover, the specific goals dictated in the business case of the learning project should be clearly measurable in performance improvements.
Again, certification are an essential tool for measuring specific learning. Certifications require objective testing and are validated by experts in the field. For example, Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification is a rigorous validation of project management skills including education, experience, and knowledge. The certification exam verifies that candidates demonstrate understanding and practice in the ten knowledge areas and receive a passing score on a very challenging and comprehensive exam designed by experts in the field of project management. To learn more about PMP certification, please join a free class by emailing “PMP” to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Value of Learning
Senior management will validate the financial return on learning and training as with any other business activity. Treating learning as a project with clear business objectives, detailed plans, flexible implementation, performance monitoring, and validation at close-out can increase the confidence of senior management to support training activities. Often, certifications and continuing education to sustain trade certification provides meaningful, industry-wide measurements of the value of learning.
All of the courses at www.Simple-PDH.com offer objective tests and certificates of completion to validate and measure the value of learning. Check out our newest course, Cost Estimating, for example delivered to any device, any time. We also offer group discounts for PMP Boot Camps and New Product Development Professional (NPDP) Certification (next class is 12 & 13 October). We want to make it simple for you to study, learn, and earn!
Study. Learn. Earn. Simple.
by Global NP Solutions, LLC