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Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


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How can we measure the impact of L&D on culture change?

Jackie Clifford explores the difficulties L&D organisations face in providing solid, tangible evidence of culture change.
Impact of L&D on culture change

As a part of the judging panel for last year’s Culture Pioneer Awards, it was a real privilege to work alongside others from the L&D industry. And to have the opportunity to read about some of the great work that is going on in organisations across the UK.

One of the things that struck me as I read through entries in the Learning Category was how challenging it is to gather and present solid evidence of culture change.

In this article, I’d like to explore some of the ways in which we might assess our cultures, and then use this assessment to monitor and measure culture change initiatives that involve L&D activity. 

The L&D questions to ask yourself

At a very fundamental level there are three questions to ask:

  1. Where are we now?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How will we know when we’ve got there?

Nothing new there then…

The challenge is truly answering these questions with solid evidence, rather than gut feelings and perceptions.

How can we tell where we are in terms of culture? And what makes us think we need to be somewhere else?

One of the places which we can start is to compare the behaviours that we would link to our espoused values, with the behaviours we actually see across the organisation. 

Although difficult, finding out where we currently are is essential in determining any future culture change.

It can be tricky to decide where we want to be. Often we are aware that we aren’t quite there yet, but haven’t truly defined what ‘there’ looks like.

Assessing where we want to be should be a consultative process and will involve going back to the espoused values and asking questions about what these actually look like in practice.

Using a behavioural framework 

In some organisations there will already be a behavioural framework – created through consultation and research – linked back to the values, but in many there won’t be, and therefore we need to help to create one. 

We then need to use our framework to find out where we currently are. 

For example, we can use observations and surveys to assess a behaviour such as “is open to receiving feedback”, which might be linked back to the value of “continuous improvement is at the core of everything we do”.

The development process

Gathering this initial data will give us information about where we are starting from, and will help to inform the development process that we eventually create.

The development process should involve all areas of the organisation, and should be owned by a collective representing these areas, rather than being owned and driven by HR or L&D. 

As part of the process, there will be a strand that involves learning and development. 

The term ‘learning journey’ is often used to describe a developmental process which takes place over a period of time. 

In the context of cultural change, we need to consider what would need to happen so that we can move the culture from where it is to where we want it to be.

L&D's role is to figure out what needs to be done to move the culture from point A to point B.

This will mean creating not only learning interventions, but other interventions that support learning and support change to take place at individual, team, and organisational levels. 

And of course, as already stated, this means that, as L&D professionals, we will need to work with others across the organisation. 

When we are creating learning interventions, we need to consider which behaviours from our framework each intervention is targeting. And how we will use the learning methods at our disposal to achieve behavioural change.

Because behaviour change takes time, we will need to ensure that we build in monitors and measures at regular intervals over the time period.

Gathering L&D data from the right places at the right times

At a very basic level we could carry out a staff survey at the start of the culture change process, again as the process finishes, and finally several months after the process has been completed.

Having agreed-upon specific measures to track any cultural benefits is essential.

The survey will need to have specific questions tailored to gather the data that we will need to assess progress, i.e. questions relating to our agreed behavioural framework. 

But robust evidence needs to come from a range of sources. With this in mind, here are some measures that we might use to demonstrate how L&D activities have benefited the organisation, its people and its culture.

1. Performance and development reviews

If we carry out regular reviews with individuals using the behavioural framework as part of the process, we will be able to assess individual progress as well as team progress.

If we regularly ask why progress has been made, we should be able to correlate back to participation in L&D activities.

2. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

If we create KPIs linked to our behavioural framework and then measure progress against them, we can also correlate progress to L&D activities which have taken place.

3. Return on Investment (ROI) calculations

We can look at the cost of L&D activities vs the benefits gained as a result of these activities.

This is NOT easy to do and there is some excellent guidance on how this can be achieved in Andy Lancaster’s book:

“Driving Performance Through Learning”.

4. Ongoing dialogue/story-based evidence

As a final, more qualitative measure, I would encourage ongoing conversations between team members and their managers. This can feed into an organisational conversation.

A basis for these conversations is the question: ‘what have you noticed?’

By considering this question at an individual, team, and organisational level, we can gather qualitative and story-based evidence. It will help to paint a picture of where we were, where we are and, most importantly, how we made the transition.

This can then feed into the continuous learning cycle.

Demonstrating L&D's value

I hope that I have provided food for thought around the question:

‘How can we measure the impact of L&D on culture change?’.

Albeit challenging, it is extremely important that we continue to highlight the tangible benefits of L&D activities and the impact that they have on our organisations.

In our hearts we know it, but we must be able to prove it if we are to be able to continue to make our vital contribution to organisational success.

If you enjoyed this, read: How learning leaders can craft the optimal learning environment


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Jackie Clifford


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