4 Steps to Being a Business Champion: Bridging Learning to Performance (240% ROI!)

October 23, 2015 Ryan Campion

It’s an old debate now – is there truly value in employee learning programs beyond checking a box off the compliance list that someone completed their sexual harassment training?  Can learning actually be used to improve employee performance and lead to tangible, desired business outcomes like increased revenue and decreased staff turnover?

The honest answer is that it depends. I hate answers like that too, but hear me out. Learning for learning’s sake is not going to develop employee skills or create more profitable businesses. The right type of learning content has to be delivered through the right means to actually make it work. Ideally it should be specific to a person’s role, interests, or career path – something relevant to their professional goals and aspirations. Getting learning content right led to over 240% ROI for one organization – but we’ll get to that in a moment.

Going back to learning content -- let’s say I’m a heavy equipment mechanic working to repair an engine component with which I’m not entirely familiar. If I get to a point where I’m stuck, what is going to help me do my job: an hour-long eLearning course, or a 3-minute video walking me through the critical steps of engine repair?  Obvious answer – but most organizations don’t approach learning in this fashion.

Most companies produce long, boring courses and then expect people to absorb the information and apply it as soon as they are done watching it. First of all, how many of us have breezed through a required training course just to get to the end, take the quiz if there is one (where most of the questions are basic enough that you can guess the correct responses without taking the course) so we can mark it complete and move on with our day?  

We don’t learn this way. Many professionals need to practice by doing, and they need bite-sized, supportive materials they can reference back time and time again as a refresher. For more on why bite-sized training is key, check out this brief. It doesn’t even need to be something as technical as the mechanic example illustrated above – a sales rep preparing to negotiate a major deal could easily brush up with a quick lesson on positioning value to maximize the size of the deal without alienating the prospect.

On a recent webinar we ran on the topic of linking learning to business performance (watch it here!), analyst firm Brandon Hall’s Chief Strategy Officer, Michael Rochelle, stated that learning itself is not the outcome, that it’s not about “taking a course, getting the right grade— but actually performance being the outcome.”

Baker Hughes is one organization that has actually figured out the secret sauce to creating learning content that directly impacts employee (and therefore, business) performance. On that same webinar referenced above, they broke it down into four steps.

The Four Steps  

  1. Assess and understand the current performance needs of the organization
  2. Design implementation and change management plans
  3. Organize and centralize learning content and capabilities
  4. Expand your learning ecosystem/framework for the future

They started by formulating a learning strategy that aligned precisely to their mission and core values – as a leading oil services provider, their goal was to provide safe, affordable energy and improve people’s lives, all the while balancing the challenges of their highly regulated industry.

Jennifer Wolf Rogers, Global Content Development Manager at Baker Hughes, had her work cut out for her. When examining the business needs, she encountered quite the problem. While their training team had been producing content for one audience, their business wasn’t at all structured this way. They had several product lines and several business segments, and within these lines the learning assets that were available for the workforce were very different. They were in different formats, and this content couldn’t necessarily be re-used or shared between them. According to Jennifer, what they really needed to do was change their mindset and “actually make assets available for people in multiple formats at the time that they needed them. [That] is what we felt like we needed to be able to accelerate our organization and enable that performance.”

Technology has now enabled them to provide a consistent learning experience to all of their learners across business lines, and also provide them with relevant, bite-sized content that helps them do their jobs better and more safely.

But as we all know, change is never easy. The second step in Baker Hughes’s journey was to make a major paradigm shift in the way they developed content. They needed to move to a single-source methodology, which basically refers to the ability to create content one time, in one single format, and then easily rebrand it, reapply a different look and feel depending on the particular business unit, for example, or take a piece of content and make it look different depending on which user or department is accessing it.

Once they enacted this change, they moved to step 3, which was to centralize all their content and to specifically align it to the organization’s capabilities. Well what the heck does that mean? Their L&D folks met with their business units and determined what the performance and qualification criteria should be for various roles within the organization. Once they had that determined, they built their content and curriculum to understand what behaviors would need to change in a person to reach success, how to measure that success, and ultimately how the training would drive performance.

Organizing their content and standardizing its delivery to their learners around the globe was also of paramount importance. Baker Hughes has an Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere Education Center, and they wanted to ensure that all learning materials being delivered from these establishments were consistent across the business. By centralizing the production of their content in one place through Xyleme’s learning platform, they also made it possible to retrieve all the content from one secure location in the cloud, thus ensuring that no matter who accessed the content, or from where, they got the same experience Baker Hughes’s training team intended them to have.

With regards to step 4, Baker Hughes is already doing some really cool things and they have plenty more plan on the docket. Their marketing team caught wind of how they were changing the way they build learning content and now also uses the content platform to produce fun, engaging mobile content designed to let people interact and learn more about Baker Hughes.

Baker Hughes has also made great strides in the realm of analytics. Through Tin Can analytics (also known as xAPI), they can make correlations to how people are experiencing learning events and how that actually corresponds to how well they do in their jobs everyday. The L&D team uses this data to work closely with their talent management teams to ensure they are meeting their overall performance goals. THAT is how learning connects to business results. Who cares if someone completed a course – if they take training, don’t you want to know if they now do their jobs better? Faster? More safely? That’s what truly matters.

The ROI

Being able to create content in a single-source fashion and reuse it across departments and geographies has amounted to huge savings for Baker Hughes, and they saved more since Xyleme’s learning content platform also makes their process of translating content for the 90 countries in which they operate much more efficient.

According to Jennifer, “we’re looking at a current savings of $1.2 million a year, or an ROI of 240% based on the savings we see in regards to translation.” She further added, “We don’t do any custom content development outside of our learning content management system, and [see] huge, huge savings in productivity and reuse.”

Baker Hughes no doubt did a lot of work to get to where they are today, but they were not alone. Xyleme was instrumental in partnering with them to help achieve their success. If you would like to learn more about how Xyleme can help you build and deliver smarter learning content to truly impact your organization’s performance, visit us at www.xyleme.com or Contact Us

About the Author

Ryan Campion

Ryan runs demand generation at Xyleme, which provides content management for learning and development. Xyleme helps organizations develop content faster, make it easy for learners to find it, and enables businesses to measure their content's actual use and effectiveness. Ryan is responsible for driving education and new interest in our products and services. His passions include writing, drawing, fitness, and the outdoors.

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