By Marcie L. Oates
Bonnie Beresford, director of Performance and Learning Analytics at GP
Strategies, says, “Measure to prove…and to improve!”
like a reasonable thing to advise clients as a performance consultant, right?
Of course, it does!
what I discovered during the monthly Texas Chapter of the International Society
for Performance and Improvement webinar is that measuring results is not a
common path executives and learning leaders take—especially without a deep
understanding of “why.”
in June, ISPI Texas hosted a fellow ISPI member and leader from Michigan—Bonnie
Beresford, PhD. She graciously educated us on creative ideas and insights on
how to gather data, measure it, and report results.
Beresford has co-authored the book Developing
Human Capital: Using Analytics to Plan and Optimize Your Learning and
Development Investments and is considered a leader in our industry.
She has more than 20 years of experience in human performance
improvement, and her hallmark is linking investments in people to measurable
As the vice president of
programs for ISPI Texas, and a host for monthly webinars, I have the responsibility
of “warming up” guests prior to events so they feel comfortable with me and
engaged with our members. In our pre-session, Dr. Beresford and I talked about
her involvement with ISPI and how she got into the human performance technology
(HPT) world. I asked several questions about her extensive experience with
measuring outcomes as a consultant and was specifically curious about her chief
I am summarizing here,
but Dr. Beresford informed me that she found most executives and leaders were
not particularly willing to implement effective, well-planned measurement
strategies as part of the performance improvement plan. She said that many are
OK with “smiley” sheets, but simply did not understand the variety of measurements
available, data analysis technics, and the wealth of approaches to drill down
to factual information that can be immediately implemented for improvement of
learning or reviewed for future upgrading of solutions.
She mentioned that some
stakeholders and learning leaders will often say things like, “We are doing
well and everyone likes our courses, so why measure?”
As a learning and development
consultant with more than 15 years of experience working with a diverse
portfolio of organizations, I was intrigued by Dr. Beresford’s discoveries and
am always puzzled at the lack of effective measuring and reporting requested
with my own clients. I certainly recommend measuring outcomes, but have also
found some project budgets end with grandiose discussions and recommendations
leaving the final deliverables absent of well-rounded improvement plans or
proof of meeting requirements reporting. Most ask for strategies that just
solve an issue by implementing training and want to move on.
During our webinar, Dr.
Beresford discussed that Level 1 evaluations from the Kirkpatrick model are
often planned as part of the performance improvement effort and—she discovered—what
many do not know, including some consultants, is that the way the feedback
questions are formed has a prevalent impact on the learner’s comprehension of
the question, the data received, and, ultimately, the data reported.
I have to say, I was
somewhat stunned by the lack of knowledge around measuring learning that Dr.
Beresford described. In my conversation with Dr. Beresford, I stated, “I guess
our clients simply don’t know what they don’t know?” She agreed.
Part of my blessing and
curse as a “geek” within the learning and performance improvement arena is that
I have always been fascinated with exploring new territory. So, of course, I want
to learn more about evaluations and often ask my colleagues this question, “How
many of your current or past clients engage in a strong effort to measure
impact and how many plan on reviewing comprehensive data to improve a program?”
I have to say after
thinking about it, we may have a double-edged sword here and may not like to push
the thorough measurement piece of a learning strategy or training plan. This
more than likely would be to keep employers happy because they feel it will be
too complex, too expensive, or will not provide enough data to demonstrate
business impact. Clients know they need to engage in some kind of analysis and
reporting, but opt out to adhere to the project budget and timeline. I confess
here and now, I am guilty of this and will strive to correct. (Sorry, previous
clients, I plan to amend this immediately.)
I also learned executives
may require ongoing discussions about assessing and reporting results before
they perceive the value. Measuring “to prove and improve,” is essential: (1) to
verify learning had an impact, and; (2) evaluation of results can help to
continue a project to tweak or improve learning toward business impact or
If you are an executive,
program manager, instruction designer, or trainer, I invite you to access our
ISPI site at www.ISPITX.org for more about this webinar. If you join the Texas
Chapter of ISPI, Bonnie’s recordings and all previous and future webinar
recordings will be included as part of your membership.
About the Author
Marcie L. Oates
has over 15 years of experience supporting clients and learning organizations
as a learning solutions manager and consultant with a primary focus on team
building, leadership development, and business growth through customer care.
She is the vice president of programs for the ISPI Texas Chapter and has supported ISPI Texas since 2015. Her primary
focus is to provide members with online, live events and support that allows
them to enhance their efforts around learning and performance improvement with
clients. ISPI Texas won the 2016 Merit award. For 2017, ISPI Texas is
concentrating on providing members knowledge around how technology supports
HPT. To learn more about this organization, access its website at www.ispitx.org.
an industry-recognized human capital strategist, performance consultant, and
author, leads GP Strategies’ learning and performance analytics practice. With
over 20 years of experience in human performance improvement, her hallmark is
linking investments in people to measurable business outcomes. This business
impact work has been recognized by CLO and ATD. Bonnie holds a PhD in human
capital management from Bellevue University and
an MBA from Wayne State University. A member of the International Society for
Performance Improvement, she has served on both the Michigan and the
international boards of directors.