Gathering metrics on the process, participation and outcomes of learning and development (L&D) programs is critical for helping employees grow. This data is valuable for measuring training effectiveness and business impact to make sure your programs are meeting expectations and needs.

Leveraging a performance management solution alongside a robust learning management system enables you to tap into valuable data insights to better inform your talent development strategy. But to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of your programs, measuring training effectiveness must be about more than just capturing learner logins, completions and assessment scores.

It’s important to partner with providers that put data at the center of your L&D program, that understand your goals, and that collect and showcase the type of metrics you need in a way that’s easy to understand and useful to apply. This approach enables you to measure and optimize your training program performance, which is essential for continuous improvement and maximizing results.

Here’s why data management should be a central piece of your L&D program and why choosing the right solution provider can make all the difference:

1. To Assess Training Engagement

What good is training if people aren’t participating in it? Assessing professional development engagement can help you not only track program impact but also demonstrate the value of participating and learning. When you can plot a correlation between career advancement and salary increases with high levels of training engagement, it can serve as a strong incentive for participation.

To gather valuable engagement data, start with a few simple metrics, such as these:

    • Course participation, completion rates and frequency of login: These metrics can help you identify whether employees are participating in training voluntarily and address motivational issues by demonstrating the value of continuous learning.
    • Length of time required for completion: Tracking time to completion can help you identify stumbling blocks at various points in the content. Is it too difficult? Is the content unclear or not resonating with learners? Perhaps there are cultural issues that create friction. All of these factors can impact comprehension and retention and, ultimately, training success.
    • Success metrics based time of day: Are employees more engaged at certain times? Are assessment scores better in the morning or in the afternoon? Tracking this data can help you identify best practices for rollout and delivery, especially for required programs, like safety training.
    • Sentiment: How do employees feel about the courses you offer? Do they find them interesting? Valuable? Inclusive? Gather feedback to gauge employee sentiment, and incorporate that feedback into modules. Doing so will demonstrate that you prioritize learners’ needs and continuous improvement.

You can also use training engagement data in order to generate predictive suggestions to encourage training participation. By tracking career growth alongside training, you can suggest specific courses to employees in much the same way Amazon suggests products (e.g., “people in your role or who completed this training also like this program”).

2. To Ensure Knowledge Retention and Application

Learners can easily forget what they’ve learned, especially if they don’t apply it right away. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how much employees will forget, we all know that the adage “use it or lose it” applies — and without retention, training is pointless.

Ensure “stickiness” by measuring the impact content type has on learning. For example, some people prefer to learn visually, auditorily or with text, and learners will retain more material when it is presented in their preferred style. Survey employees for feedback on course material to see what they prefer, and offer materials in a variety of formats that fit different preferences.

You should also assess retention using a variety of methods and time increments. Rather than just relying on course completion and certification, use applied assessments: Ask employees to demonstrate application of the material beyond passing a quiz. Extend this assessment beyond the immediate completion of the course to ascertain how much they retain one week, two weeks or even a month later. Based on that insight, reinforce what learners are forgetting, and consider adjusting the format and duration of training (from hours-long or day-long events to short microlearning sessions, for example) based on your analysis of what works.

3. To Measure Behavior Change or Progress Toward Desired Outcomes

The purpose of training isn’t just to train; it must be designed to achieve specific businesses goals, whether it’s a decrease in accidents, improved product quality, employee skills growth or building a leadership funnel. The only way to know if your L&D program is effective is to measure against those key performance indicators (KPIs) or performance outcomes. Start by establishing a baseline, and measure frequently to see whether the KPIs improve over time.

The Kirkpatrick model has become a popular measurement tool, but for many organizations, quantifying impact is still a major challenge. According to LEO Learning’s 2019 “Measuring the Business Impact of Learning” report, about two-thirds of training professionals feel pressured to measure the impact of learning. Almost all (96%) say they want to do so, but only 50% are actually evaluating learning based on “ROI, job performance and organization impact” rather than “learner satisfaction and utilization metrics” alone.

One way to solve the problem is by combining quantitative data (like metrics pulled from LMS) with qualitative data (like employee feedback and observation) to help determine what’s working and what’s not. This approach can help you identify programmatic issues like whether certain departments or job roles are struggling to adopt what they learn during training. Perhaps it’s because the training isn’t personalized to their roles or needs? Creating and offering custom content can help, as can connecting training content to the learner’s context and demonstrating its benefits for both the trainee and the organization.

4. To Ensure ROI

L&D is a strategic role. In high-performing organizations, the L&D function supports the implementation of the business strategy, and data shows that companies that invest in developing leaders, for example, are 2.4 times more likely to hit their performance targets.

Yet McKinsey cites a Brandon Hall conference report that the learning strategy is aligned with business goals at only 40% of companies, which means they’re likely not realizing a positive ROI from their L&D programs. To make sure your L&D program delivers real business value, start by establishing clear business goals; then, collect and analyze data learning to determine whether they are helping to meet those business goals.

Also, consider whether the cost and investment in your LMS and training program is efficient. Is the platform easy to use? Or is it cumbersome and a waste of training staff time and resources? Are employees actually using the resources you’re offering? All of these questions directly impact ROI and provide valuable data that can inform L&D program improvement.

Ultimately, failing to gather and leverage data in a L&D program makes it impossible to determine whether it’s working and, if not, how to improve it. As a result, your organization and your employees are unlikely to see real benefit from the investment you’ve made in training. Investing in solutions that put data at the center of your L&D strategy is the only way to ensure success.