Identifying the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for your learning and development (L&D) programs is vital to create training that supports your organization’s core strategy and tactics and drives business performance and success.

How Can You Select the Right Training KPIs?

The correct KPIs can ensure that learning and development programs support and drive vital enterprise strategy and tactics. L&D metrics track progress on specific measures, such as learners’ reactions to a course, the number of people trained, knowledge assessment scores or hours spent in a learning management system (LMS). However, these metrics are not enough. Combining traditional L&D metrics with business metrics will form the basis for KPIs that inform and indicate a learning and development program’s success.

For example, an insurance company may implement a training to improve the accuracy of its estimates. The L&D metrics would indicate the number of employees who complete the training, their reaction to it and their knowledge assessment scores. While those numbers are important, a KPI would be the extent to which estimate accuracy changes after the training.

How Does Identifying the Right Training KPIs Help L&D Teams Achieve Their Training Goals?

Successful learning and development programs align to both employee performance targets and corporate strategy and tactics. An L&D program may seem effective based on metrics like time spent in the LMS or reaction scores, but only legitimate KPIs identify actionable results. Inherent in this equation is the need to align employee performance targets with corporate strategy — which requires effective collaboration between the L&D team and its stakeholders.

For example, a customer service department may track and base performance reviews on call handle times, aiming for minimal customer interaction and short conversations. However, the corporate strategy may depend more on customer service scores, which may be negatively affected by short call times.

Once employee performance targets are aligned with the corporate strategy, it is a simple (though not easy) process to identify important KPIs. For example, does the sales team value call volume or the number of sales? Whichever KPI is more relevant, the training department must use it to measure the impact of the training solution for the sales team.

What Strategies Can Help You Identify the Right Training KPIs?

Some KPIs are leading indicators, and some are lagging indicators. Early on, learning and development programs can use leading KPIs to iterate and improve knowledge or application evaluations. Lagging KPIs, often measured weeks after the training, should also inform iterations. These indicators should include business results like increased sales or enhanced customer satisfaction.

This list can help you identify the right KPIs for your training programs:

1. Confirm That the Training Can Solve Business Problems

Collaborate with business leaders to identify performance gaps and supply the information needed to identify KPIs that will drive design and evaluation.

2. Align the L&D Programs With the Corporate Strategy

Correlating a solution’s goals with the corporate strategy will drive effective KPI identification. Use artifacts like design documents and program charters to document the correlation.


A training needs analysis can help quantify both L&D and business metrics and KPIs so that you can measure training effectiveness and its impact on the business.

4. Move Beyond Hours and Head Counts

For too long, corporate training teams have conditioned business leaders to expect to see reports of just hours spent in training and head counts, losing credibility in the process. Legitimate KPIs map to the results business leaders truly care about, such as profitability, satisfaction and engagement.

5. Ensure That Training KPIs Are Measurable

Subjective indicators, while potentially useful as anecdotal evidence, are usually weak indicators of training’s success or failure.

6. Make Sure the Data Is Accessible

If the numbers you would use to calculate your KPIs are locked in a database that is not accessible to the training team, find other KPIs to use.

What Common Mistakes Should You Avoid When Selecting Training KPIs?

When determining training KPIs for your learning and development programs:

1. Identify the KPIs Before Developing Training Solutions

Early identification of KPIs will drive effective design and development. When determined after design or development, KPIs are unreliable at best and, at worst, may indicate total failure.

2. Avoid Subjective KPIs

Business leaders engage with hard numbers. Smile sheets and anecdotal comments may inform internal strategy but should not be used as KPIs.

3. Ensure That the Data Is Available and Reliable

Avoid the problem of “garbage in, garbage out.”

4. Don’t Ignore Negative Results

Failure is always an option. Honest reporting of negative KPIs ensures that future iterations of learning and development programs will be more effective.

5. Wait Long Enough to Measure Lagging Training KPIs

Often, KPIs are meaningless until a few weeks have passed, at which point you can see their impact (or lack thereof).

Identifying the correct KPIs is important on both the front end, when designing learning and development programs, as well as the back end, when evaluating their effectiveness. The right KPIs will help you drive business results and ensure alignment with key corporate strategies and initiatives.