In the movie, Field of Dreams, the character played by Kevin Costner is told “If you build it, they will come.” And I use an image from this movie to talk about learning culture, in that you can put all the elements of the performance ecosystem together, but if you work in a Miranda organization (where anything you say can and will be held against you), you won’t be able to tap into the power of the ecosystem because people won’t share. But it’s clear that the problem is worse; the evidence suggests that L&D overall is in a ‘Field of Dreams’ mentality.
A new report (in addition to the two I cited last week) documents the problems in L&D. LinkedIn has released their Workplace Learning report, and one aspect stood out: Only 8% of CEOS see biz impact of L&D, only 4% see ROI. And if you ask the top ways they evaluate their programs, the top five methods are subjective or anecdotal. Which concurs with data a few years ago from ATD that the implementation of measurement according to the Kirkpatrick model dropped off drastically: while 96% were doing level 1, only 34% were doing level 2, and it went dramatically down from there. In short, L&D isn’t measuring.
Which means that there’s a very strong belief that: if we build it, it is good. And that, to me, is a Field of Dreams mentality. It feels like the L&D industry is living in a world where they take orders and produce courses and trust that it all works. I was pleased to hear that there’s testing, but there’s far too little measurement.
And, interestingly, one other statistic struck me:”less than 1â„4 are willing to recommend their program to peers”. To put it another way, the majority of L&D are embarrassed by their outputs. This isn’t any better situation than the statistics I reported in my book calling for an L&D Revolution!
So, the complaints are predictable: too little money, too few people, and getting people to pay attention. Um, that comes when you’re demonstrably contributing to the organization. And that’s the promise I think we offer. L&D could and should be a big contributor to organizational success. If we were adequately addressing the optimizing performance side of the story, and ensuring the continual innovation part as well, our value should and would be high.
It’s past time L&D moves beyond the ‘Field of Dreams’ status, and becomes a viable, and measurable contributor to organizational success. It’s doable, under real world constraints. It needs a plan, and some knowledge, but there’s a path forward. So, are you ready to move out of the corn, and onto the road?