Highly engaged, trained employees surrounded by a purposeful learning and development team are necessary to achieve desired business results. Yet in most organizations, it’s often difficult for C-suite members to see the value they expected from their learning programs—leading to the potential of budget cuts, a risk no organization wishes to face.
Uncertainty in the local economy, a move toward automation, or global influences such as ever-changing trade agreements between neighboring countries or political unrest in a region, impact programs in all types of organizations causing them to become frozen, reduced, or eliminated. The solution to prevent this has never been more evident than now: learning programs must get connected to hard business results if funding is to be protected.
Yet, like most learning and development professionals, there are some daunting roadblocks to overcome.
- Over 50 percent of learning and development is wasted.
- What senior executives want from learning and development is rarely measured. One study found that 96 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs want to see the business connection, yet only 8 percent see it. And 74 percent want to see ROI, yet only 4 percent see it.1
- Very few learning and development professionals have data to show top executives that their programs make a difference.
- Most executives perceive learning and development to be a cost, rather than an investment. Thus, in times of economic anxiety, it’s the first budget to be cut—when, really, it should be increased.
- Hard skills are widely perceived as being far more valuable than soft skills—even though data shows the payoff of soft skills is higher.
How do we correct these persistent dilemmas? The solution is by using design thinking.
What is Design Thinking?
Rooted in innovation, design thinking suggests that goals should be set for the desired outcome and the entire team should be mobilized to design the product, service, or process to achieve the goals. More specifically, design thinking involves these elements:
- Method to take on design challenges by applying empathy
- Approach to collective problem solving
- Framework to balance needs and feasibility
- Process to solve complex or wicked problems
- Aptitude for curiosity and inquiry
- Problem-solving approach to handle problems on a systems level
- Culture that fosters exploration and experimentation2
Relating this process to learning and development means that all stakeholders should work in a collaborative way to design for the desired results from learning. The results desired could be one or all of these levels of outcomes: Reaction, Learning, Application, Impact, and possibly ROI. These outcomes represent a logical flow of data from a classic logic model. In today’s economic climate, the desired level of results is impact, expressed as improvements in output, quality, time, and costs.