While most business leaders understand the importance of corporate learning and development (L&D), it’s important — as responsible partners — for L&D leaders to demonstrate the value of training. This article provides tips and strategies on how to do so.

Why Is It Critical to Demonstrate the Value of Training?

In professions where the results of poorly trained and underqualified employees have high stakes, like the military, emergency services and medical professions, the value of training is obvious. Those organizations train often and effectively. But in organizations where the results of training are less stark, it’s more difficult to demonstrate its value.

Learning and development efforts cost time and money and should result in increases in effectiveness, efficiency and, ultimately, revenue. Business leaders are hesitant to invest in efforts that are not demonstrably effective and contributing to the bottom line.

What Are the Challenges of Demonstrating the Value of Training?

Sometimes, however, it’s difficult to identify a direct connection between training and revenue. Take, for example, training during the COVID-19 pandemic. As business slowed, many organizations leveraged the extra time employees suddenly found themselves with to offer more training. L&D leaders were excited to report increased time spent on training (sometimes two and three times more than the previous years). However, without a clear correlation proving that the increase in training created additional innovations and other positive business impact, business leaders may not continue to justify the increase in courses and time spent in training.

It is often difficult to draw a direct line from training to the impact it has on company revenue. Many things directly impact revenue, and business leaders can be hesitant to call out training as one of them. On the other hand, when performance drops, increasing training is often their knee-jerk reaction.

Sometimes, it is difficult to gain access to the right metrics or even the right technology when demonstrating the value of training. Additionally, measuring training effectiveness is time-consuming and often difficult.

What Strategies Can Help You Demonstrate the Value of Your Training and Development Programs?

1. Start With the End in Mind

What to Measure

Before embarking on any training solutions, it’s important to work with business leaders to identify and clearly and objectively articulate the problem that needs to be solved. A training needs analysis (TNA) will help you identify the metrics that will prove the success or failure of those problem-solving efforts.

How to Measure It

While identifying the problem and working with business leaders to identify the salient metrics, it’s important to identify the process and frequency of measurement. Too often, L&D leaders identify metrics but then forget to track them in the hustle and bustle of everyday business.

Starting with the end in mind ensures that the training solution will attack the actual business problem. It also ensures that you can measure and track the metrics used to identify the problem in order to demonstrate the value of the training.

Here are examples of measurable metrics available to most businesses:

2. Align Training Metrics With Business Key Performance Indicators

When measuring the effectiveness of training, it’s important to work with business leaders to identify enterprise key performance indicators (KPIs). Doing so will help ensure that the training metrics you use are aligned to the metrics that indicate success in the business, as recognized by business leaders. That way, they will clearly demonstrate the value of training and development.

This process will also help ensure that training efforts will align with enterprise strategy and tactics, supporting the goals the business is working to achieve. For example, an important metric might be the number of product innovations developed by product teams. In this case, effective training on a topic like design thinking will align with innovation enterprise strategies and should contribute to an increase in product innovations, demonstrating the value of training and development.

3. Select the Training Evaluation Metrics

There are several models organizations use to measure the effectiveness of training. Choose one or more, and customize them to your organizational dynamics and end goals. Here are a few:

    • Learning-transfer evaluation model (LTEM): LTEM is an assessment model comprised of eight levels: attendance, activity, learner perceptions, knowledge, decision-making competence, task competence, transfer and effects of transfer. According to this model, the first two levels (attendance and activity) do not offer enough data to determine effectiveness but, rather, provide a foundation for each succeeding level.
    • Kaufman’s five levels of evaluation: This model is comprised of five levels: input and process, acquisition, application, organizational output and societal outcomes. These training metrics include quantifiable findings spanning from how well learners understood the training materials (input and process) to the effect the training had at the organizational level (societal outcomes).
    • Success case method: As an alternative to focusing on the success of specific training programs, this model gauges how well an organization delivers training. It examines factors that are external to a training program but might influence employee performance and business results.
    • Context, input, process and product evaluation model (CIPP): The CIPP model evaluates the impact of context, input, process and product; sustainability; effectiveness; and transportability. This model is iterative, applied throughout a training solution instead of after it.
    • Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation: Kirkpatrick’s model may be the most well-known evaluation model and is the starting point of many other models. Its taxonomy assesses learner reaction, knowledge retention, behavior change and impact on the business.

What Tips Can Help You Demonstrate the Value of Training?

Some learning management systems (LMSs) have started to include low-value metrics such as seat time, learning hours and courses completed. While this data indicates participation and does have its place, it isn’t enough, because it doesn’t indicate the value the training brought to the organization. Instead, focus on high-value metrics, including employee engagement, compliance, performance, innovation and revenue.

When reporting to business leaders, avoid using L&D jargon. Many L&D departments are used to discussing “level 1 results” or “level 3 impact,” but these phrases mean nothing to business leaders. Instead, use terminology they understand, such as “reaction survey results” and “performance change.”

Finally, use only objectively measurable statistics to demonstrate the value of training. Most business leaders prefer to avoid subjective measurements as evidence of training’s value and impact.

Training is one of the most important pieces of the business success puzzle — and measuring and demonstrating its value will increase its quality. Want to learn more abut how to measure and maximize the business impact of your corporate training programs? Download the e-book “Cracking the Code – How to Measure and Maximize the Business Impact of Your Corporate Training Programs” for insights and a set of practical strategies you can use to measure and maximize the impact of your employee training programs.