It’s hard to gain executive support even for the most critical learning and development initiatives. The pressure continues to rise for CLOs who are encouraged to do more with less, while at the same time expected to measure the business impact of learning. Executive sponsorship is a critical success factor and the very best programs link the learning initiative to a business goal with measurable outcomes. This post will show you how to move beyond anecdotal or observational evidence alone and upgrade to a data-driven approach to show ROI.

At Qstream, we’ve found that our most successful customers have robust executive sponsorship for critical-enablement initiatives like onboarding and employee training. Sponsorship is different than simply getting support. Those who support initiatives may simply raise and voice opinions, whereas sponsors act as coaches or mentors who serve as an advocate for your program, gain buy-in and collaborate top-down to achieve cross-functional support where needed.

As an L&D leader, how can you ensure a seat at the table and the funding needed to execute effectively? Our customers have strong executive sponsorship and follow these six steps:

  1. Collaborating with company-wide stakeholders to understand departmental or team goals.
  2. Soliciting stakeholder input on key learning needs or competencies that are linked to their  business initiatives.
  3. Documenting the learning program plan, goals, and required resources and confirming stakeholder buy-in to execute.
  4. Broadcasting the plan up and downstream to stakeholders and learners.
  5. Communicating regularly about program successes and challenges.
  6. Reporting regularly on agreed-upon business outcomes and metrics.

The first four steps can be achieved through relationships with fellow department heads. Working together to create a cross-functional plan demonstrates to all levels of the company that the initiative is important, was created to address critical business needs, and signals to potential C-level sponsors the critical nature of your program. For L&D professionals, creating a collaborative plan that is measurable is key to linking learning objectives to business outcomes — another attention-grabber for a potential champion.

The final three steps, however, is where learning leaders often struggle. Documenting is natural, but defining hard success measures, and reporting on the program effectiveness can prove difficult. Sometimes soft measures alone are not able to provide hard evidence on business outcomes. In fact, a new survey from LEO Learning found that 67 percent of respondents said they feel under pressure to measure learning’s impact — a 38-percent increase from a year ago. But what L&D professional measure is split: 50 percent said they’re either not evaluated or rely on learner satisfaction and utilization metrics.

Gaining executive sponsorship will be difficult if relying on activity based metrics or soft outcomes alone, which makes your learning program a nice-to-have and not essential to the business. The other half said they’re evaluated based on return on investment, job performance, and organizational impact. Furthermore, only 36 percent of  respondents to a survey by the Chief Learning Officer Business Intelligence Board said they measure training against specific results, such as sales, message alignment, or risk and compliance. Increasingly, the C-suite is demanding learning programs prove their value related to the  business goals when making funding decisions, and should be.

The Power of Scenario-Based Microlearning with Executive Sponsorship
Measuring and quantifying learning impact is challenging, but the value is in the data. In the past, it was hard for L&D professionals to collect the needed data that supports their efforts. The information transferred during annual meetings or even in the most comprehensive of employee onboarding programs fade over time, as studies show that in as little as 30 days, 79 percent of knowledge is forgotten. One of the best ways to combat this phenomena — coined as “the forgetting curve” or “the lost investment curve” — and collect the required data needed to prove L&D’s impact is to implement data-driven, spaced-based microlearning.

Microlearning is a method of continuous training that breaks down complex scenarios into small, digestible pieces of information. Used within a data-driven platform like Qstream — which promotes engagement through cognitively stimulating, scenario-based challenges during the flow of work in a fun and social way — it provides a wealth of insights that guide coaches and managers on who, what, and how to coach through dashboards and detailed heat maps that highlight employee and team-wide proficiencies, strengths, and opportunities for improvement.

Let’s look at a real Qstream case study involving a customer that developed, launched a new product, and trained their salespeople in the traditional way. The company discovered that only 50 percent of the new information was initially retained, so it decided to implement space-based microlearning through Qstream.

Nearly 140 participants responded to 15 scenario-based challenges that were repeated over six to eight weeks. Employees bought in with 100 percent engagement, therefore providing the program with more than 4,000 data points to measure from the responses submitted. As the below chart shows, proficiency greatly increased:


Sponsorship2Proficiency increased over a very short period of time by following Qstream’s scientifically validated methodology that features scenario-based learning that leverages context-rich scenarios by putting the learner in a problem-solving mode where they need to apply what they know. The length of the program used the “spacing effect” — which is where the microlearning is delivered over time and adapts to each person’s mastery of the information — to combat the forgetting curve. Likewise, the “testing effect” showed how participants will respond in a real-life scenario and apply what they know.

Plus, participants loved it:


Using the underlying data on how learners are responding to the challenges, learning program leaders now have documented evidence that supports the plan’s hypothesis, allowing them to communicate with their executive sponsor and report back — thereby completing the final two steps of the aforementioned six-part process. This ability to track progress as it aligns with the agreed-upon business goals can only  lead to greater company-wide collaboration and increased success, therefore justifying the CLO and executive sponsor’s backing of the program.

Not only that, learning leaders can use aggregated proficiency and knowledge-gap analysis to inform further learning program needs and continually iterate where the most attention is needed. Based on this, they can provide executive sponsors with data-backed recommendations for further resourcing and support of their continuous learning program.

Gaining executive sponsorship is key to gaining support for microlearning and measuring the return on investment of your learning initiatives — support that can only be gained if there is proven, measurable behavior change that supports business goal achievement. To learn more, watch this free webinar to learn more about how microlearning changes behavior and impacts business outcomes.

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