How should we really measure the impact of training & learning processes?

You need more focused ways to adjust new learning measurements that fit the current demand of the world of work

Employee training and learning processes entail many advantages, ranging from retention through increased performance, to stronger engagement, yet being aware of those benefits doesn’t make them easy to measure in the context of the learning direct contribution.

On top of that, while CLOs offer different measurement criteria for training effectiveness, there appears to be a gap in what the executives are expecting to achieve from employee training, which points out a strong need to redefine the scope of measurement.

Today’s common criteria of measurement are focusing on how many participants have completed the training, the participants’ evaluation, strengthening of their skills, and the program prestige. At the same time, executives who have been asked what’s important to actually measure replied with a stronger emphasis on the ability to implement the acquired skills in the day-to-day tasks, financial ROI, and most importantly – an alignment with and meeting the organizational KPIs.

What does this gap teach us about the importance of shifting the focus of the learning measurements, and more importantly – what might be better paths to conduct a renewed type of measurement?

Let’s start with the WHY:

Adjusting the measurement of learning toward organizational goals as well as a more accurate ROI assessment is essential to ensure L&D processes maintenance. It implies a bigger allocated budget, better results that are reflected in short and long-term results, and the relevancy of the training.

Now for the HOW:

What are more focused ways to adjust new learning measurements that fit the current demand of the world of work?

Free guide: How to motivate your employees to own their learning journey

Preparation counts: Conduct a needs assessments

Without having clarity of the needs in mind (and in written), it’s not likely to set the right criteria for measuring the learning process’s effectiveness. Even before setting the goals, it is important to articulate the needs and assess where are the visible and hidden gaps in employees’ knowledge and skills.

Once the needs are identified in a thorough, systematic and consistent manner, it is possible to set goals and set the measurement criteria that are most suitable.

Let’s share an example:
You have a group of young managers recently promoted to their first managerial position, and clearly, you would want to set up leadership training to equip them with the right capacities. Theoretically, this is an easy task, with easy measurement criteria: you are teaching them how to become better managers and measure this through employee evaluation and their performance as managers down the road.
But you might have missed an important piece of information: perhaps half of those managers carry some leadership background and they’re quite confident about a few aspects, yet they rely on an old-fashioned leadership style. What they really need is an updated leadership mental model that opens their perspectives.

Now we’re onto something: a more accurate need, therefore a more customized training;
But moreover: we have a new set of measurements that could be implemented: have they updated their behaviour and leadership style?

Useful tools to carry out the mentioned above measurements are surveys, self-assessment questionnaires, peer-review, and employee reviews.

Desired results: direct and indirect

“Managers, needless to say, expect their manufacturing and sales departments to yield a good return and will go to great lengths to find out whether they have done so… likewise, training directors might be well advised to take the initiative and evaluate their programs before the day of reckoning arrives.”

Don Kirkpatrick

There’s often a high pressure to demonstrate a return on the investment, without understanding two key differentiating elements:

First, you can determine different types of ROI, and although time equals money, there are still separate ROIs that need to be taken into account.

Second, not all returns are related to the investment – some are about expectations, therefore we have the ROE.

ROI that is not financial could be any result that contributes to employees and company growth and could be quantified and measured against the initial time and money investment. Those could be greater capacity to deliver products or services, higher retention rates, fewer mistakes, etc. One could claim (and rightfully so) that those are all convertible to money, but it’s still important to first understand the root of the improvement and the linkage, for two reasons:

First, that way you can understand what works better and put more focus on it within the next learning process;

Second, this data is demonstrable for the executives we mentioned earlier and help get their buy-in.

ROE (Return On Excpeaction, a term coined in the context of learning & development already in 1959 by Don Kirkpatrick, refers to the process where learning professionals ask questions to clarify and refine the expectations of the key business stakeholders, so that they are satisfying these expectations whilst realistically achieving results in training. It’s about converting often generic expectations into observable, measurable success outcomes that the overall business values.

In other words, aim high with the goals yet stay realistic about achievable milestones, which you can easily track and measure.

Measuring ROE is important for showing both the learners (employees) and the executives how the learning has been impactful even before converting it into ROI. This pathway is not a compromise, but rather a qualitative way to measure immediate results that are aligned with the varied expectations of the training. It allows including diversity of points of view and continuous engagement thanks to a positive feedback loop, and are helpful to point out what needs to be adjusted along the way.

Here is one example to demonstrate are ROE could come into place and how is it different from ROI:
At the end of training focusing on enhancing psychological safety within teams, you can conduct a survey regarding the participants’ self-assessment of their capacity to implement the knowledge. After about a month you conduct a peer review that involves employee perception of their managers’ ability to maintain psychological safety and compare it with baseline analysis which has been held prior to the training. Lastly, you compare the employee retention data from 6 months before and after the training, while controlling for other influencing factors.

What have we just done?

The first two – self-assessment and peer assessment – reflect the ROE by tracking the change in participants’ behaviour change as a result of the training, as expected (assuming this was the set expectation).

The third measurement – employee retention after controlling other factors – reflects the ROI by comparing what’s the delta between how much we’ve invested in training and how much have we saved by preventing unnecessary turnover attributed to lacking psychological safety in our case.

Kickstart your new L&D measurement strategy

To conclude, measuring training and learning processes must be aligned with different business criteria that reflect both the learners’ progress and the organization’s growth. When setting up indicators of measurement even prior to conducting the training, you are better able to prepare the program, prepare the trainer, set up your learners for success, and better communicate to the executives how is this training valuable in different business measurable aspects.

The tools as well as the pool of data to conduct such deep and accurate measuring are all available today. It’s more of a question of better strategy, planning, and focus rather than inventing something completely new.

We at Uppey are happy to set you up for success by consulting on how to set advanced training and learning measurements and how to present them in a more effective way. 

Book a 15-minute discovery call with one of our experts to kickstart your improved measurement strategy

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