Does the CorpU 12th Annual Awards Program applications tell us anything about learning innovation? Indeed they do. In a nutshell, they show that learning organizations are focusing energy and resources on a variety of new programs, but not so much on measuring the effectiveness of the programs being implemented. After 12 years of giving out awards , the dramatic increase in the number of applications received in the Launching category is noteworthy. However, there seems to be significantly less innovation going on in the very important Measurement category. Why is this trend important? Because it is absolutely unsustainable.
This year’s CorpU awards program accepted applications in seven categories: Alignment, Alliances, Branding, Launching, Leadership, Learning Technology, and Measurement. In the previous two cycles, although there were some notable program and new learning organization launches, the category took a back seat to Alignment and Leadership in terms of number of applications. However, this year, Launching generated the most interest among the applicants, with almost 30% of the CorpU award applications submitted in the Launching category. This demonstrates that companies are trying new things and are excited and proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish through their program design and delivery efforts. This is a real positive sign for the learning industry, and bodes well for the future.
There was, however, a disturbing trend in the applications we received...or more correctly, the applications we didn’t receive. Although every applicant has to include measures of success of their work regardless of category, there have always been companies that thought they were doing excellent and innovative work in measurement and were willing to say so by applying specifically in that category. This year, for the first time since beginning the awards program at CorpU, we are not giving any awards in the Measurement category as only one company felt that its program was worthy of consideration.
There is no question that measurement presents a dilemma for many companies. The CorpU 10th Annual Benchmarking study results underscore the issues. For example, 53% of all respondents and 75% of those companies that are Experts (scoring highest overall in the survey) report that their leaders are willing to accept "number of people trained" as a measure of the learning organization, while only 24% of all respondents and 55% of Experts report that leaders are given documented evidence of changes in behavior. Only 12% and 20% of all respondents and Experts (respectively) use business metrics like profitability per employee.
Clearly, the rise in new programs and the creation of new learning organizations is a positive indicator for the learning community. Without reading too much into it, it signifies that learning organizations are being given interesting challenges within their companies and are rising to those challenges successfully. However, that trend is unsustainable if learning organizations aren’t paying close attention to how the work they are doing affects the critical business improvement metrics that, ultimately, senior leaders are looking for.
This article supports the CorpU 12 Dimensions of Learning Excellence – Align (Strategic Integration) and Measure (Business Outcomes).
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