Benchmarks and the Danger of Data

CherryPicking

We are always excited to read the annual installment of ATD’s State of the Industry.  Cited year round by our clients, and the industry as a whole, this compendium of data is seen as an important touchstone for many L&D professionals. But, while these numbers are used by so many to justify a sought after initiatives or validate current activities, benchmarks can be misleading.

The other note about benchmarks and data is that cherry picking a single data point or even source can be misleading.  While it can be comforting, it comes with a caution.  While some will point to the positivity of increased spend, others will cite the data from Bersin by Deloitte, Corporate Executive Board and others, that shows the lack of confidence in L&D, the amount of waste caused by scrap learning or the negative net promoter score for L&D.

Achieving benchmarks is not the goal for today’s learning organizations.  While directional, every company is its own group of one. Your company’s business strategy, market conditions and human capital are unlikely to be identical to any other. If you are spending lower or higher than benchmarks, and delivering no value, you are overspending. The reverse also holds true.  The true metric for learning professionals to watch is their contribution to the success of the businesses that L&D serves not spending levels.

Note: J had some additional questions about the numbers that he posted here.

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