4 ways to measure impact and growth

In a recent interview with Liam Tancock, an Olympic backstroke swimmer, I was intrigued to hear that he incorporates ballet into his training routine. Apparently, doing ballet steps helps him to control his hand and feet placement, which could shave hundredths of a second off his performance and mean the difference between being on the winners' podium or not. Our clients invest a lot of effort in capability development programmes to improve the performance of their  teams and measuring the impact of these initiatives is something that many are keen to do. So with this positive intent, why doesn't it happen more in practice?

Barriers to measurement

Some of the main things that get in the way of measuring capability programmes tend to be the same as those that get in the way of measuring the impact of marketing activity:

  • With the flurry of activity involved in developing and running a capability programme, measurement gets left until it’s too late. If this happens there's no baseline to assess progress against
  • People know it's tricky to measure the impact of one specific initiative on overall business performance
  • It takes time for the impact to show - people are often thinking more short-term and are impatient for results

And there are many more reasons, which is why measurement often falls into the 'too difficult' box.

So what can clients do to overcome these barriers?

Based on our experience of the challenges in this area we have defined four key principles to help navigate this minefield.

1. Keep it simple

Make measurement simple to understand and to implement across the business. In order to do this we work with clients to define key metrics at 3 levels:

  • Commercial Impact: what does the capability programme need to achieve in terms of improvement in business results and changes in consumer/customer/employee behaviour?
  • Team Performance Impact: what does the capability programme need to achieve in terms of improvement in the team's behaviour, ability and motivation?
  • Capability Influencers: what impact have we had on other key factors, more immediately attributable to the capability programme, that will bring about the desired change in commercial performance - not just learning programmes but other influencers such as definition of roles & responsibilities and ways of working?

2. Use existing data sources where possible

We believe in being resourceful and using the data that a business already has wherever possible. Businesses are usually awash with data on commercial performance and it's more a question of selecting the right measures. Similarly internal data sources usually exist for capability influencers or are relatively straight forward to set up (e.g. measuring usage of an e-toolkit). However, getting robust data on Team performance is usually the key data gap with only a minority of businesses investing in a tool designed to do this.

3. Establish a baseline

As with measuring the impact of any initiative we want to know the starting level of performance i.e. to establish a baseline. We recommend defining metrics upfront, and getting agreement to these as part of the overall plan, to prevent measurement becoming an afterthought and slipping off the agenda.

4. Take a long-term perspective

Review the metrics at key stages of the capability programme to track progress and make any course corrections. However be prepared, as with any activity designed to change behaviour and attitudes, for this to take some time. In our experience it may take a couple of years before the impact of the capability programme is seen on business results.

Going back to our ballet dancing, Olympic swimmer; if you aren't measuring the impact of your capability building programme, how do you know where to focus in future in order to secure a place on the winners' podium?


For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s capabilities, please get in touch or contact me directly on LinkedIn. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Learning.

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