By Christopher Lane, Associate Director of Research, ExecOnline
On June 21, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the first-ever international standard for learning and development metrics (ISO/TS 30437). As organizations increasingly treat L&D less as a cost center and more as an investment on which they expect a return, measuring and reporting the impact of learning has become a salient demand upon L&D leaders and practitioners. But what are these new standards–and will they be a boon or a burden to L&D functions that are already stretched thin?
What is ISO?
ISO is an NGO based in Geneva, Switzerland which develops and publishes technical standards for international use. Business leaders will likely be familiar with the ISO 9000 series of quality management standards, with more than a million organizations worldwide holding ISO 9001 certification.
ISO consists of various independent working groups, called technical committees, which bring together subject matter experts from the worlds of business, government, and academia to develop standards for particular fields, ranging from vacuum pump technology to fire safety to management consultancy. The new HR metrics standard was developed by the technical committee for HR management.
What is the new standard?
ISO has previously published standards for other types of HR metrics, such as turnover and retention metrics (ISO/TS 30421), HR cost metrics (ISO/TS 30427), and succession planning metrics (ISO/TS 30433). ISO/TS 30437 is the latest addition to this series, and complements the existing standard for learning and development overall (ISO/TS 30422).
ISO/TS 30437 contains
• A comprehensive set of conceptual frameworks, including:
- Categories of L&D metrics: efficiency metrics (e.g., utilization and cost metrics), effectiveness metrics (e.g., metrics for learning outcomes), and outcome metrics (e.g., metrics for impact of learning on business goals)
- Categories of users (e.g., audiences for reporting), including recommendations for which metrics you should report to which users based on how they need to use data
- Categories of reports, each tied to a specific reason for measuring data
• Recommendations for which metrics to report for formal vs. informal learning.
• Recommendations based on organization size: there are 52 metrics recommended for large organizations with well-established L&D functions, and a core 19 metrics that even the smallest organizations should be able to track and measure without trouble.
• Definitions and, in some cases, formulas for all metrics, as well as recommendations for how each metric should be reported.
• Example tables and sample reports to illustrate reporting recommendations.
What this means for you
Adoption is voluntary and there is no certification.
Adoption is strictly voluntary for countries and organizations, so it is up to your organization whether and to what extent you adopt the new standard. There is no audit process or formal compliance certification for ISO/TS 30437 like there is for other standards, so it is up to your organization to decide how the standard fits into your L&D and business needs.
The standard is meant to help you do what you’re already trying to do.
The words “international standard” may sound scary, but the new standard for learning and development metrics is designed to enable and empower your L&D function, not burden it with new mandates and additional work. It is written to help guide and organize your thinking on what you report, why you report, how you report, to whom you report, what those users need to know and why. The standard includes definitions for metrics in terms of what to measure, but it is quite flexible on how to measure, and in many cases the specific methodology is left open for you to decide based on what makes the most sense for your organization. In short, the standard aims to be maximally helpful and minimally disruptive.
The standard integrates well with other impact frameworks.
The standard seems to have been written with an eye toward integration with existing systems and alignment with how L&D functions may already be reporting. For example, ISO explicitly aligns their conceptual framework for categories of metrics to the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model. So if you’re already reporting on L&D metrics and you do decide to adopt the new standard, you probably won’t have to start over from scratch.
Measuring ROI: how we can help
ISO’s recommendations for measuring the ROI of learning align well with ExecOnline’s impact framework revolving around retention, productivity, and goal achievement. ISO’s experts and ExecOnline’s Research team agree: there is not a straightforward way to measure “we spent $X and got $Y back” when it comes to leadership development. L&D leaders must rely to some extent on self-reported participant data and select the metrics that align most closely with their remit or business objectives.
In the current business environment, being able to measure and report the impact of leadership development is more important than ever before, and our impact framework provides you with the right data and the right story to make a winning business case for investment. Our custom ROI reporting and ROI Calculator help you surface the real impact of learning, and our C-Suite Conversation Guide helps you speak your stakeholders’ language and show them how leadership development helps them achieve their priorities. With ISO’s guidance and ExecOnline’s tools and resources, you can speak with confidence about the impact of leadership development at your organization.
The new ISO/TS 30437 standard is designed to help L&D leaders and professionals measure and report on the impact of learning. Whether your organization is just starting out with L&D metrics or your function is already a data powerhouse, the new standard can provide useful frameworks and guidelines for your L&D reporting.
ISO/TS 30437 is available for purchase from ISO directly, or from your country’s official ISO representative organization (e.g., the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in the United States).
About the Author
Christopher Lane is Associate Director of Research at ExecOnline, where he studies and analyzes data and trends to surface actionable insights on leadership development for senior leaders of L&D and HR. An experienced HR researcher, his research currently focuses on measuring organizational leadership development maturity and the ROI of leadership development.