Prior to the events of 2020, the outlook for L&D was looking extremely promising. Budgets were going up, L&D teams felt they were getting a seat at the table, and the reputation of learning programs was starting to move from cost-center to performance driver.
But few could have predicted just how rapidly things could shift in the space of a few months. While the global pandemic provided a unique opportunity for L&D to cement their position as an essential value-add to the organization, many also reported budget freezes and cuts to headcount.
In the short term, that means even the most mature L&D teams will have to do more with less. In the long term, preparation for a faster pace of business and better alignment with organizational needs is a must if L&D are to continue proving their worth to the business.
Both of these objectives require training teams to have a firm grasp on operational efficiency. Auditing the efficiency and effectiveness of internal L&D operations enables you to increase the quantity and quality of your output by working with what you have.
L&D Operational Efficiency Components
When it comes to operational efficiency, there are three core areas that must be audited for an accurate current state analysis:
- Your L&D strategy
- All processes related to training development
- Your existing learning technology stack
But what exactly are you auditing for? Within the three areas, you’re trying to get an accurate reading on your operations across three main criteria:
Part of your audit will include analyzing whether your operations are having the impact they should. What are your objectives and goals? Are you currently meeting them? What metrics are you using to track the performance of your team’s operations and the output itself?
The speed and efficiency of your operations should be closely analyzed too. The idea is to maximize output and minimize waste. For example, what elements of your learning stack are actually slowing you down rather than speeding you up? Are you extracting all the value possible from each tool? What are the bottlenecks in your processes that are unnecessarily tying up resources?
Finally, are your learning and development operations built for alignment? That encompasses alignment with the organization, stakeholders, subject matter experts, learners, and the different components of your training team.
How to Conduct an Operational Audit of L&D
Auditing your L&D Strategy
Many training teams are working with either no strategy at all. For others, the strategy amounts to a calendar of expected training projects in the coming year.
Without a fully developed learning strategy, your learning organization may struggle to consistently execute high quality training outputs or keep up with the demand for training in the organization.
Even for mature L&D teams who have a fully developed strategy, it’s worth performing an audit to take stock. You may find that your strategy still amounts to words on a page with little to no execution taking place.
Strategy Audit Questions
When performing an audit of your existing strategy, there are some key questions and areas to address, including:
- Where is your strategy documentation stored and maintained?
- Does the full team have access to it?
- What are your objectives and goals? Are you currently meeting them?
- What metrics are you using to track the performance of your team’s operations and output?
- Is your learning strategy closely aligned with organizational goals and performance?
- Are L&D strategic components built into individual performance reviews?
- How often are you conducting strategic reviews?
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Auditing Your L&D Processes
Think about your current processes and workflows. Were they carefully thought out? Or have they developed in an ad-hoc manner over time?
Most business processes develop over a long period of time. Changes and improvements often come from individuals seeking to do their own jobs more efficiently. They want more time back during the day because they are overloaded or because they spot room for improvement.
Adaptations to processes mostly occur as a response to change. The events of 2020 are a perfect example of this. Working from home has been on the cards for years, but few businesses ever considered it until they had to, despite the fact that statistics show most employees are actually more productive in a work-from-home environment.
But when processes are adapted quickly as a response to necessity, they’re often not as efficient as they could be. Auditing the efficiency of your current processes allows you to take a proactive approach to working the best way your team possibly can.
During a process audit, it’s important to get as many employees on the training team involved as possible. Since they are the ones actually working through these processes on a day-to-day basis, they are best placed to provide feedback on whether a proposed change is possible or optimal.
An audit of your processes should:
- Enable you to pinpoint waste of resources (including time)
- Identify cost saving opportunities
- Identify opportunities to maximize your team’s output
During your audit process, some important questions or areas of concern include:
- Why do we do it this way?
- Did we always do it this way? If not, why were changes made?
- Who does this process impact? What is their feedback?
- Is there documentation outlining the correct steps to take?
- Does the team always follow the correct procedure? If not, are some steps unnecessary?
- How much time does this process generally take from beginning to end?
- Can any of this be automated?
- Are any steps being duplicated across different team members or departments?
Again, it’s important to step outside learning design and widen the scope of the processes you are auditing. Many processes that slow down training teams occur long before and after a course is designed and deployed. For example, consider the following processes:
- Training intake
- Collaboration with business partners, stakeholders, and SMEs
- Knowledge capture
- Project planning and management
- Resource allocation
- Storage, cataloguing, and updating of learning content
Once you have identified a full list of processes that directly impact your training team, you’ll quickly begin to see areas for improvement including automation and other time saving techniques.
Auditing Your Learning Tech Stack
Similar to process creation, learning technology stacks often get built up over time. This can leave training teams with a clumsy, ad-hoc set of tools and technology to work with.
This goes far beyond your LMS or authoring tool of choice. As training teams and organizations begin to implement digital transformation, there is almost no area of work that goes untouched by technology. Whether you chose a tool yourself or it’s an existing organization-wide technology, are you sure you’re working with the best tech stack for your team?
When auditing your existing learning technology stack, consider what technology you use (and how you use it) for:
- Project planning and management
- Training intake
- Learning data and analytics
- Learning deployment
Instead of evaluating each individual piece of technology, try to evaluate tech stack as a whole by considering the following questions:
- How seamlessly do our processes move from one tool to the next?
- Are we using spreadsheets and email when we could be using something else?
- How much manual work is still done that could be automated?
Once you understand what your current tech stack does and doesn’t do for your team, it’s time to start breaking it apart and analyzing individual tools. You might find there are tools you can immediately abandon. There could be tools available that are being underutilized in terms of their functionality. Or, you could be using multiple tools for one process when, in fact, they could easily be consolidated into one platform.
Lastly, it’s time to combine your process audit and your technology audit. For example, maybe you have a clumsy process that takes place across email, multiple documents, spreadsheets and storage locations. Is there a piece of technology out there that can consolidate it all into one place? If that’s the case, could the time and cost savings of doing so make some room in your budget for a new purchase?
By conducting a thorough technology audit, you may find there are tools that can easily be dropped to create some budgetary space for replacement technology that better serves your training team.
The results of your audit may point to a need to do things a little differently. Why not give LearnOps a try? Check out everything you need to know
about this approach to training operations here:
Free eBook: The Executive’s Guide to LearnOps