LTEM and Action Mapping: hot sauce for business-driven learning 

Hot Sauce Sign

Ricci Masero adds zest to training evaluations, aligning learning with organisational goals and kicking performance gaps to the curb 

While travelling in the lush paradise of Costa Rica, where zesty hot sauce is as ubiquitous as the tropical sunshine, I stumbled on an insightful LinkedIn comment that sparked my interest in LTEM and Action Mapping.

Just as the locals here expertly blend fiery chilies and tantalising spices to create their beloved hot sauces, these learning methodologies offer the perfect recipe to infuse corporate training with a business-driven kick. 

The true measure of a successful learning programme lies in its ability to drive real performance improvements and tangible business results on the job

Evaluating the effectiveness of learning initiatives has traditionally focused on learner reactions, knowledge acquisition, and sometimes skill demonstrations in a controlled environment. However, the true measure of a successful learning programme lies in its ability to drive real performance improvements and tangible business results on the job. 

Why should we use LTEM to evaluate learning? 

The Learning Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM) offers a more comprehensive and impactful approach to evaluating learning, focusing on the transfer of learning to on-the-job behaviours and their impact on organisational metrics. By explicitly linking learning interventions to business goals and performance requirements, LTEM ensures that learning initiatives are aligned with organisational priorities and contribute directly to bottom-line results. 

How does LTEM connect with Action Mapping? 

Complementing LTEM with Action Mapping, a systematic process for identifying and addressing the root causes of performance gaps, enables a comprehensive and data-driven approach to designing and evaluating learning solutions. 

Rather than simply addressing perceived training needs, Action Mapping starts with a clear understanding of the desired business outcomes and works backward to identify the specific behaviours and performance requirements that drive those outcomes, as well as the potential barriers or causes that may prevent employees from exhibiting those desired behaviours. 

“… start with whatever the business cares about, work backwards identifying the driving behaviours and their barriers. Take a systems-wide inventory of these and not just what a ‘training problem’ is” – Zsolt Olah 

This systems-wide inventory of performance requirements, causes, and barriers forms the foundation for designing targeted learning interventions that directly address the identified needs and enable effective learning transfer.  

By focusing on the application of learning and its impact on business metrics, organisations can ensure their learning investments are yielding meaningful results and contributing to the achievement of organisational goals. 

Evaluate learning through business impact and performance 

To effectively implement this approach of evaluating learning through the lens of business impact and performance improvement, organisations can follow a structured process that integrates LTEM and Action Mapping methodologies.  

This process involves a series of deliberate steps to ensure that learning initiatives are directly aligned with organisational goals and address the root causes of performance gaps. 

  1. Identify business goals and metrics 
    Start by clearly defining the business goals or desired outcomes you want to achieve. These should be specific, measurable and aligned with organisational priorities. 
  1. Map performance requirements 
    Using the business goals as a guide, identify the key job performances or observable actions that employees need to exhibit to achieve those goals. These are the driving behaviours mentioned in the LinkedIn comment above. 
  1. Conduct a cause analysis 
    For each requirement, analyse the potential causes or barriers that might prevent employees from exhibiting the desired behaviours. Prioritise the identified causes based on their impact on business goals and the feasibility of addressing them with training. Group related items together, as they may require similar learning interventions. 
  1. Design practice activities 
    Based on the prioritised grouped causes and barriers, design real-world practice activities that specifically target the identified actions that learners must take on the job. Each activity should mirror the real world as much as possible. 
  1. Develop learning interventions 
    Identify the information people must have to complete each activity. Create materials such as videos, eLearning courses, job aids, instructor-led training, and readings to support the practice activities. Keeping these supplemental and focused tightly on the minimum information required. 
  1. Implement and evaluate 
    Implement the learning interventions and use the LTEM framework to evaluate their effectiveness. Measure not just learner reactions and knowledge acquisition, but also the actual application of learning on the job (behaviour change) and the resulting impact on business metrics. 
  1. Refine and iterate 
    Based on the evaluation results, refine the learning interventions as needed, and continue to monitor and adjust the activities as the business goals and driving behaviours evolve. 

Overcoming hurdles: addressing potential challenges 

While the benefits of adopting LTEM and Action Mapping are compelling, organisations may face certain challenges when implementing this approach. Acknowledging and proactively addressing these challenges can help ensure a smoother transition and increase the chances of success. 

Data collection and analysis 

Implementing LTEM and Action Mapping requires collecting and analysing data from various sources, including business metrics, performance data, and root cause analysis.  

This can be challenging, especially in organisations with siloed data or limited resources for data collection and analysis. Investing in the right tools and processes for data management, as well as cross-functional collaboration, can help mitigate this challenge. 

Aligning learning with business goals 

Effectively aligning learning initiatives with business goals requires a deep understanding of organisational priorities and performance requirements. This can be difficult in large or complex organisations with multiple business units or competing priorities. Regular communication and collaboration with business leaders, as well as a clear strategic alignment, can help ensure that learning initiatives are focused on driving results. 

Cultural shift 

Adopting LTEM and Action Mapping represents a cultural shift toward a more data-driven, performance-oriented approach to learning and development. This shift may require changes in mindset, processes, and even roles within the L&D team. Providing adequate training, resources, and support for L&D professionals, as well as fostering a culture of continuous improvement, can support this transition. 

Reaping long-term rewards: the sustained impact 

Using LTEM and Action Mapping is much more than just improving learning effectiveness right away. It transforms the whole organisation for long-term success. These methods create a culture where employees constantly learn and improve their skills, making the organisation flexible and able to adapt to changes easily. 

Learning programmes are carefully aligned with the company’s goals. This provides a deeper understanding of what critical skills are needed for success, allowing better workforce planning. The data-driven, continuous improvement approach lets organisations quickly identify and fix any performance gaps. This agility is a major competitive advantage, ensuring that the training department is a valued strategic partner to leaders across the company. 

Breaking the cycle: why LTEM and Action Mapping matter 

If organisations fail to adopt an approach such as LTEM combined with Action Mapping, they risk perpetuating some of the common pain points and challenges faced by L&D leaders. LTEM and Action Mapping enable L&D leaders to directly address these pain points, ensuring that learning initiatives are strategic, impactful and continually optimised to drive organisational success. 

Misalignment with business priorities 

Without explicitly linking learning initiatives to organisational goals and performance requirements, L&D efforts can become disconnected from the organisation’s strategic priorities. This misalignment can lead to wasted resources and a perception that learning is not adding value to the business. 

Ineffective learning transfer 

Traditional approaches to evaluating learning often stop at measuring learner reactions and knowledge acquisition, failing to account for the critical step of transferring that learning to on-the-job behaviours. As a result, organisations may invest heavily in training programmes that do not translate into improved performance or business results. 

Inability to demonstrate ROI 

L&D leaders frequently struggle to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of learning initiatives, making it difficult to secure continued funding and executive support. By focusing on business metrics and performance improvement, LTEM provides a framework for demonstrating the tangible impact of learning on organisational outcomes. 

Failure to address root causes 

Without a systematic approach such as Action Mapping, learning solutions may address surface-level symptoms rather than the underlying root causes of performance gaps. This can lead to recurring issues and a perpetual cycle of ineffective training. 

Key takeaways and next steps 

Here are three key takeaways: 

  • Align learning with business goals: Effective learning evaluation starts with a clear understanding of organisational goals and requirements, ensuring that learning initiatives directly contribute to bottom-line results. 
  • Address root causes, not symptoms: Action Mapping enables a systematic identification and addressing of the root causes behind performance gaps, moving beyond surface-level training needs and delivering targeted, impactful solutions. 
  • Demonstrate tangible ROI: LTEM provides a framework for measuring the transfer of learning to on-the-job behaviours and quantifying the impact on business metrics, enabling L&D to demonstrate a concrete return on investment. 

To begin this transformative journey, L&D leaders should take the following steps: 

  • Engage stakeholders across the organisation to understand strategic goals and priorities, fostering a collaborative approach to learning evaluation. 
  • Conduct a comprehensive analysis of performance requirements, barriers, and root causes using Action Mapping techniques. 
  • Develop a robust LTEM-based evaluation plan that measures: learning transfer, behaviour change, and business impact. 
  • Continuously refine and optimise learning solutions based on evaluation data, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. 

Bring the heat with LTEM and Action Mapping in learning evaluation 

By adopting the LTEM approach, complemented by Action Mapping, learning and development professionals can unlock the true potential of their initiatives. It’s time to add some zest to stale training evaluation practices. By splashing some potent hot sauce on to outdated methods, organisations can break free from their regular order of ineffective, flavourless training. 

Don’t settle for the same old bland evaluation approach – spice things up with the robust flavours of LTEM and Action Mapping instead. 

Ricci Masero is Marketing Manager at Intellek 

Ricci Masero

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