This is a massive subject area - and somewhat confused in places - not quite A to Z, but certainly Alignment to Performance (or Results, or Strategy). Is there a specific area you'd like to focus on?
I must say I'm not exactly sure which area, although my instinct is that is around the area of workforce planning. When I started to look at the material on workforce analytics, so much was around demographics of the workforce - which struck me as somewhat sub-optimal!
I fully accept alignment is critical; but then some part of me says we should just take that as a given and look into it deeper. So my feeling is that, if L&D is all about working smarter, the metrics that reflect that is the workforce plan.
Having said that ..... I'm keen to keep the discussion as broad as possible.
Alignment is the most critical issue within this area. For many organisations a lack of alignment means that the benefit of L&D (plus so many other things) cannot be realised to the fullest extent.
Whilst many workforce analytic approaches measure results (I've even seen one company put all their faith in the Jack Phillips approach to ROI - and little else), results alone are not enough; the question still remains 'how successful could we be?' It is the gap between current success and future success that this the Holy Grail.
I've worked with clients in this area and there are three things I look at to judge the level of alignment. These are:
Once the above have been measured it's possible to see how aligned the organisation is. Simply put, an organisation that isn't aligned is like trying to poke someone with a jointed stick; you'll poke them, but not very hard!
Whilst many people will feel that it's best to keep measuring the effect of L&D, I've always tended to work on getting the alignment right first, as when this happens you immediately get better results (and less waste) without having to put more effort in.
As I said earlier, this is a massive subject are but hopefully the above will get some people thinking and responding.
OK; let's develop the argument further. What I'm trying to find through this discussion is what are the workforce analytics that we should be looking for that demonstrate the value-add that L&D can contribute?
Alignment is clearly a significant part of that value-add, but if we push that to its logical conclusion we would get to the point that all analytics are associated with L&D's clarity, consistency, and commitment to what the organisation's trying to achieve. Can it be that simple? I must say I hope the answer's "yes" but I'm not sure that it is.
I completely agree that the holy grail is to maximise the value-add that L&D can create, and I believe that that involves demonstrating to the organisation (and putting metrics behind) the value-add that they are creating; L&D needs to be seen as a value-creator, and not simply as a cost centre.
So .... can we do that through demonstrating alignment alone? Or are there issues we need to explore further in order to find that grail?
Let me try and clarify . . .
The issue of alignment is an organisational issue and not just about L&D. What I was trying to say is that unless an organisation is aligned then L&D, marketing, sales, research etc. cannot have the true impact relative to the effort expended. So, when you measure any impact within an organisation you will never get the best results if the organisation is not aligned.
I was therefore saying that before we all rush off and try and measure L&D impact we need to know how aligned our organisation is. Gaining alignment also creates clarity; one of the key issues necessary for L&D success. I guess that too many of us have tried to develop or deliver programmes against wooly outcomes so it's hardly surprising we sometimes fail.
Yes we can measure L&D value and there are a number of ways to achieve this but I strongly feel that unless we understand the state of organisational alignment we will not understand how much better we could be. Put another way, you don't spend good money on top class fuel if you know your car engine isn't working properly.
To close, I agreed that L&D has to demonstrate its value but that's so difficult if you fail to understand the issue of organisational alignment.