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Do You Want To Look Good Or Be Good?

Kent Barnett, CEO of Performitiv
Kent Barnett
October 18, 2023
Oct 18, 2023 11:00 AM

My good friend, Dr. Patti Phillips, suggested this title.  We both feel strongly that our industry would be better served if we take a more critical view of our performance.

For the vast majority of Learning organizations, our evaluation techniques have remained fairly constant over the past few decades.  Most organizations use average scores to measure effectiveness.  While average scores have value, they mask where we have failed to add value to participants and our organizations.  Other industries are more transparent on where they have failed and could do better. Think of Six Sigma and its focus on driving out waste to increase productivity, quality and earnings. Think of Net Promoter System and the focus on driving out detractors to increase loyalty and earnings.

While most learning professionals know the Net Promoter Score for their programs, most don’t know what percent of participants are detractors. Detractors of learning programs generally don’t produce value.  They are most likely an expense without a sufficient return.  They tend to be less motivated and less loyal.  We in Learning should focus on reducing detractors from strategic programs such as Onboarding, Leadership Development and Skills Development.

The CEO of Agilent Technologies often said that HR executives like to focus on green while business executives like to focus on red.  Isn’t it time we thought and acted more like business executives?

Another good friend, Dave Vance, has repeatedly mentioned how shocked he is that most learning organizations don’t set goals.  Isn’t it time we set goals to drive out detractors from our organizations? 

Some learning organizations use “top two box” on a 5-point scale to measure effectiveness.  Their reasoning is that participants who rate a program a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale probably generate a positive return from the learning.  The problem is that participants who rate a program a 5 are more likely to be substantially more productive and less likely to leave than a participant who rated it a 4.  In the Net Promoter world, a 5 is a promoter and a 4 is a passive learner.  Shouldn’t we set goals to drive up promoters of our program?

Changing an industry’s old habits is hard, but it’s time we take a more critical view on our own impact.  Our industry creates incredible value for our organizations and employees. Let’s be proud of our current impact and push ourselves to get better and better over time.

For more information on how to build a continuous improvement culture, please click here.