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How ZSL London Zoo Connects Learning With Business Impact

London Zoo ROI of Learning

Photo: iStock by Getty Images

Emma Brown, Head of Training and Organisational Development at ZSL London Zoo explains how she and her team align workplace learning with organisational goals and report their results with impact.

Why is proving the value of L&D so important for your organisation?

It is very important to our HR team to demonstrate that L&D is adding value to our organisation, which is something we’ve been working on since our L&D team joined in 2014. We want to measure the impact we are having, to ensure we are making a genuine and tangible difference to staff and are continuously improving our offer. 

How do you measure the ROI of L&D within ZSL? And how do you communicate this to the company?

We produce an annual report for directors and the Council of Trustees that outlines the value of Training and Organisational Development. We identify measures of success for each project or programme of work at the start and are sure to capture data throughout the year to demonstrate these. This data can be anything from employee feedback and evidence of individual performance improvements to team or organisational wide improvements in our staff survey scores as well as the cost of a project and savings we have made by the approaches we have adopted.  We also look at external benchmarks so that we are able to communicate how ZSL L&D sits in comparison to other charity organisations.

How is demonstrating the value of L&D different across organisational levels?

We seek to identify the value at an individual, department and organisational level.  

What are the top challenges of proving return on investment and how are you overcoming them?

It can be difficult to measure improvements in culture and behaviours, but we look to overcome this by identifying measures of success right at the start of a strategy or plan. We also sometimes find it challenging to gather feedback from people, so tried to ensure access is as easy as possible, with all out evaluation forms online.

How would you recommend L&D departments get their senior management team engaged with learning/supporting initiatives?

Within our organisation it is essential to provide as much evidence as possible both for the need for the learning initiative and the value it has added to ZSL.  Evidence can be focused to appeal to senior management and with initiatives chosen that are relevant to their needs, frustrations and strategies.  It also helps when what you deliver is high quality as it help build credibility.  

Can you describe a moment when you realised employees were recognising the value of training?

One year after our L&D team joined the organization we ran an employee opinion survey that showed staff perceptions of training and development had improved significantly over that year. There were a huge number of qualitative comments in the survey where people expressed their appreciation of training and development and how it was helping them in their role. It showed us that in a short space of time my team were adding real value to the majority of staff. 

We also introduced 360 degree feedback for senior managers and used the findings to introduce a number of leadership development initiatives.  A year later performance had improved across the leadership team, with increased scores in the areas we had particularly paid focus to.  This was incredibly rewarding to see, and showed that our approaches were having the right affect. 

What’s next in your L&D strategy to further prove the value of talent development at ZSL?

We’ve recently introduced eLearning so will next be looking to measure the value.  This will start with understanding the number of people that have engaged with eLearning and how helpful they have found it and we’ll then review the financial savings made in terms of training costs and hours saved. 

This interview is part of the U.K. L&D Report 2018.

Download the full report below:

L&D report

What's included?

  • The employee training budgets, training topics, and training methods of organisations in 2018.

  • Practical advice from L&D leaders to help you adopt new technologies, nurture a learning culture, get the most from the apprenticeship levy and measure and promote the value of workplace learning.

  • How learning professionals rate the executive engagement in learning, assess the impact of training and more!

U.K. L&D Report: 2018
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About the Author

Emma Brown is the Deputy Director of Organisational Development at the Ministries of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Emma has also served as the Head of Training & Development at the Zoological Society of London, the Head of Learning and Development at Waterstones, and the Group Manager of New Look.

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Last updated: 10 Jul 2019

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