Taking learning back to the workplace
Imperial College Business School conducts Impact Studies to monitor the effectiveness on their executive development programmes and to see how learning is being applied by participants when they return to their workplaces. This is a synopsis of their findings:
What is an Impact Study?
It’s notoriously difficult to measure the benefits of executive development programmes. The Impact Study investigates changes in participant behaviour that can be ascribed to the effect of the development programme they have attended. Rather than trying to produce hard, numerical evidence of impact, it creates a series of stories – all evidence-based, that point to individual and organisational benefits. Our Impact Studies are mixed method interviews conducted with programme participants, their line managers and occasionally the organisation’s customers, to identify changes in behaviour and demonstrated skills that can be ascribed to the particular development programme
Why do Impact Studies?
The main driver behind conducting Impact Studies is to uncover the extent to which learning from Imperial College Business School development programmes is being applied back within the workplace.
Why is this important? It helps the organisation to understand what value it has gained from the investment in the development programme, and what it can do in terms of organisation, consultation and communication to improve the impact (and return on investment) of future programmes. It confirms for participants what they have gained from the programme and finally helps us, the learning partner, to understand how we can work further as a trusted advisor to help increase the value of our customers’ investments.
To assess this, the focus of attention is on programme participants’ perceptions and actions since the conclusion of their programme, backed up by observations gathered from their line managers. This synopsis reports on findings from two Impact Studies conducted following programmes delivered to a large multi-national construction company.
How did we do our latest Impact Study?
Employing a mixed-methods approach, just under 100 participants and their line managers were invited to participate in an online survey. Following this, a subset of participants and their line managers were invited to participant in one-to-one interviews to obtain data more specific than that obtained via the online survey. The following information was sought:
Participant and line manager suggestions for improving the programme, particularly how it was ‘set up’ and ‘set down’.
Main Findings and Themes
To date, the main findings from our Impact Studies can be grouped into the following four themes (see below for further details):
Ongoing reiterations of the Impact Studies are helping to refine a standardised process for their development and use. Concurrently, clients are valuing the Impact Studies as a device that helps them develop their organisation’s learning culture, as opposed to an organisation that sends employees on learning activities.
1) ROI - Specific benefits of programme from participants’ and line managers’ perspectives. Our mixed-methods approach helped identify specific examples of benefits coupled with frequency analyses to demonstrate the prevalence of those benefits.
Participants came out of programme more rounded and able to develop throughout entire company, not just within single business unit. They report having more understanding and awareness of whole company and their role in it.
All of these identified benefits help the HR and Learning & Development teams to justify such investment in development.
2) Greater understanding regarding the role of the Line Manager in maximising value from the programme.
3) Insight for the Organisation - into the set-up and set-down factors that can impact the success of the programme and the transfer and application of learning
Mixed-methods approach helps generate customer- and site-specific suggestions for how to maximise value from course. Rather than us providing generic recommendations, this method allows us to identify and suggest ‘best-fit’ solutions.
4) General findings
Our method allows us to generate a level of awareness and understanding in different stakeholders beyond that which is typically gained via standard means
Impact Studies can also shed light upon organisational culture issues and how those issues can impact perceived course value and performance outcomes.