This process is often referred to as a training or learning audit, and it’s a powerful exercise that enables you to make strategic decisions about your L&D programs and assess if and where resources should be cut or reallocated.
Not only does this help you understand which areas of your L&D strategy are effectively contributing to business goals and generating an ROI, but you will also get clarity on which programs are creating meaningful outcomes for employees.
In this article, we’ll outline step-by-step what you need to conduct an effective learning audit.
How to audit your training and development programs
While it may seem like a complex undertaking, conducting a learning audit can be accomplished in just a few simple steps. Once you have the process down, you can easily replicate it for future use.
Here’s how to get started.
- List out L&D programs
To paint a full picture, you should plan to examine the individual performance of every aspect of your L&D strategy. This starts by taking stock of each program that falls under this umbrella.
What this looks like is going to vary greatly from one company to the next because it’s entirely dependent on what initiatives you currently have in place. Your list might include things such as a learning platform, workforce education solution, resource library or a tuition reimbursement program. Be sure to include all initiatives that relate to employee learning.
- Review resourcing and budgets
If determining the ROI of your learning investment is a desired outcome of this audit, then it’s important to gather all the information you have related to the costs of your L&D initiatives. This includes any software spend or outsourcing fees that go to academic institutions or third-party managed learning services.
- Collect both qualitative and quantitative data
You’ll want to gather both quantitative and qualitative data as part of the collection process.
Quantitative data is typically expressed in numbers. These are your standard L&D metrics such as retention rate, employee productivity or training completion rate. Qualitative research is non-numerical data that’s gathered through methods such as interviews or employee surveys. Combining both quantitative and qualitative data offers a more comprehensive understanding of your L&D results by helping to validate and complement findings.
Since these programs are already up and running, you’ve likely already established and collected unique success metrics for them. The goal of the audit is simply to gather all of this data in one place to be able to look at everything collectively.
- Analyze results and identify areas of opportunity
With all of the groundwork done, now it's time to analyze your findings — at the program level and collectively — to determine if your L&D programs and resources are delivering the ROI your organization set out to achieve and aligning with your overall company goals.
Armed with these insights, your company is in a strong position to pinpoint and take action on opportunities for improvement and growth.
Taking action on your training audit results
By themselves, audit results don’t mean much. It’s what you do with your findings that dictates whether or not your audit was actually worth the effort. Taking action might mean cutting or reducing certain program components that are underperforming. It could also mean expanding certain programs or introducing entirely new ones to fill critical gaps.
Let’s review some helpful tips to keep in mind as you’re analyzing your findings.
Identifying performance gaps
Even the most robust learning programs can still fail to deliver on business outcomes. When looking at your audit data, here are some questions to consider to help you pinpoint if a program is falling short:
- Which programs are directly impacting company goals?
- What are the possible causes of the gaps you’ve identified? How easily addressable are they?
- What are the characteristics of your highest-performing programs? How can you replicate this?
- Which programs are the highest-rated among employees? How do they measure against your highest-performing programs?
- Would any of these programs benefit from better technology? Is the current technology outdated?
Addressing performance gaps
The discovery of a weak link in your L&D strategy shouldn’t mean that it’s automatically put on the chopping block. It simply means that this area deserves a closer look. After all, there are countless reasons why a program could be underperforming. Many of these causes can be addressed easily, while others might require you to re-evaluate the entire program.
Begin by checking your metrics – both qualitative and quantitative – to confirm that the areas in question are dragging. Atypical results may not be outwardly obvious so it’s important to have well-established performance benchmarks that you can compare against. If a program is new and doesn’t yet have benchmark data, look externally to see if there’s data available from others in your industry.
Next, dig into the data to learn the root cause of the underperformance. For example, maybe the program relies on outdated technology that makes it difficult to use, or perhaps employees aren’t aware of how to enroll in it.
Understanding the cause gives you the means to build an action plan to address the pain points and improve performance. Consider testing your improvements on small samples before implementing changes company-wide. If you roll out these changes and still see no improvement, then it may be time to re-evaluate the program altogether and start looking at potential alternatives.
Prioritizing your action items
With your audit results in hand, you should now have a solid understanding of the state of your L&D efforts. Next, it’s time to outline all of your proposed optimizations and determine which ones are going to drive the most impact. It’s impossible to fix everything all at once, and some optimizations might take longer than others to execute. That’s why prioritization is key to actually getting these changes off the ground.
Here’s how you can go about establishing a hierarchy:
- Evaluate all optimizations and rank them by the expected impact on goals, as well as the level of effort required to execute
- Set timelines for implementation of new programs, in order of urgency
- Establish critical metrics and set desired objectives and outcomes
- Track both individual program performance and expected impact on greater company goals
Auditing your way to better L&D ROI
Achieving positive ROI from your learning and development program can be a moving target. That is why it’s critical to continually evaluate and optimize your L&D program. The groundwork starts by conducting a comprehensive learning audit, then leveraging those results to improve your program components. Ensuring each component is functioning as effectively as possible is key to achieving strong ROI on your valuable investment in employee learning, and in turn, staying competitive in today’s ever-evolving workplace.
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