Any ideas on using learning metrics to measure impact on business performance ?

I would be very interested to hear from LSG members on this topic.


We are in the process of reviewing and challenging the metrics we use as part of our Corporate University. Traditionally the only consistent metrics have been in the area of post learning reviews (happy sheets) that measure the event but not the effectiveness of the learning or how this is applied. I know it has always been a difficult challenge to demonstrate ROI on training, or indeed what impact it has had on business performance, but I would be very interested in any ideas / experiences people have.


Many thanks in advance



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Hi Alan,

You make some good points - as always. I'd agree that the best way of measuring performance is via a suite of metrics. Some of these will need to be specific to an intervention (to ensure it's delivered as planned), some will be continuous (to track the long term impact of an intervention, or set of interventions) and some will be process focused (effectively internal checks and balances).

One thing to also be aware of is the need to ask "What impact do we want from this/these intervention(s)?". By answering this question you can then design metrics to appropriately report performance. Merely relying on Happy Sheets is never enough, nor is merely tracking how many courses etc. have been delivered/accessed.

The focus should ultimately be on long-term objectives; ones that drive the organisation in the direction needed.

As a long-standing judges for the IITT Awards we both know how often we've been presented with a list of facts (often described as KPIs, but which aren't) and when we ask the question "So what." we are often met with blank faces! Just 'doing' is never enough - we need to see results.

Oh, and one final thought, unless correctly chosen and managed, metrics can create undesirable behaviour - just look at what happened within the NHS! Performance metrics need to be based on a 'wobble board' basis so that undesirable behaviour in one area can be tracked and assesses. A classic example here has been insurance selling - yes the sales figures have looked good, but when compared to the persistency rates (how long someone keeps the product) and complaints and fines then, and only then, did the true picture emerge.

That's it (for now) and hopefully other Members can add to this valuable debate.



Picking up on Alan's point, I think it goes without saying that learning (and development) is a continuous process.  The Learning Organisation is a title often mooted, but less often realised, but certainly something for all organisations to aspire to. 

That said, the needs of Executives are that L&D is increasingly able to demonstrate the impact it has on the bottom line.  After all, why invest money into something if you're not aware of what the benefit might be?  Adding value through people working smarter is key to this, however it is not easy to demonstrate as a whole variety of things will contribute to any one persons development.


For one of our big OD initiatives we've used a longditudial approach to RoI.  The initiative started two years ago, and we use a mixture of quantitiative and qualitative methods to assess how we're doing (and this is based on new ways of working and value based behaviours so as you can imagine it's not cut and dry!). 

We've had over a thousand staff report real positive impact to them and demonstrate a smarter way of working with their colleagues as a result of the initiative (which isn't traditional 'training') - their feedback has led to improvements to the tools, development sessions and video assets, and also helped engage the wider workforce.  However it is time consuming, therefore not somethign I'd do for every activity in L&D. 


I think part of the challenge of L&D RoI is deciding exactly what it is that is important to measure (as Jonathan mentions above) and then finding the best way to measure that - but, as Jonathan also says, keeping the bigger picture in mind all the while.


Best wishes


Many thanks for all the feedback, ideas and suggestions on this topic, some really good insights to new initiatives and experiences. I have taken a few things out from the various postings that will help my thinking as we challenge our metrics of the future. Not least of which is to really understand the small number of key programs that are worthy of the increased investment of impact metrics.


Certainly there is a key role (responsibility) of line managers to work with their staff to identify the right learning program and to continue to coach and assess resulting behaviour. This is an area of focus for improvement for us to ensure that managers are equipped and accountable for this responsibility.


There are clearly opportunities through our leadership programs to demonstrate impact through tools (360 surveys), processes (development / performance reviews) and impact (talent development / career progression). This is something that feels very achievable. The next challenge is to look at how programs for other functions in the organisation can also demonstate an impact on business performance.


One area I am keen to investigate is to define (again for a small number of programs) the business wide objectives as well as the individual learner objectives. For example, what is the business benefit of improved supplier negotiation, what is the benefit of wastage elimination through lean etc. It may well be possible to articulate that these benefits are being realised, and increased, as a result of the learning programs that are delivered.


In addition I think there is an opportunity to use story telling to promote the benefits delivered through learning programs. How powerful if a program could demonstrate 2 stories, 6-9 months after delivery, that could show how the learning had been applied and what the impact to the business was. I believe we already have a number of these successes that don't currently get attributed to learning and development programs.


Again very interested to hear any additional thoughts in this area.


Best Regards





Hi Nick, In your last post you mentioned defining the business benefit of (for example) improved supplier negotiation and wastage elimination through lean etc. Here are a few thoughts which I hope will be of help . . .


Showing that any training intervention has had a direct effect on a business issue is always rather tenuous!  One way of approaching things is to agree with the owners of the business need what form of performance increase they want to see.  In the instance of improved supplier negotiation some of the performance issue might be better terms, lower prices, highr percentage of suppliers who are ISO certified and so on.


Once you know the performance criteria you can then design your training to address these issues e.g. you may include a module on negotiation skills.  Once the training is being delivered, in conjunction with the business you can then track the impact . . . are you getting better prices, better qualified suppliers and so on.


This tracking can be fairly simple to achieve and shows both you and the business owner the benefit of the investment.  The business may also want to track the performance of individuals and this too can be powerful, especially where you show a distinct performance advantage from the people who have been trained.


Hope this is of help and by all means come back to me with more questions if necessary.





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