Mindset for measurement: Getting to impact for training and learning

Conor Gilligan talks to measurement expert Kevin Yates.

Reading time: 5 minutes.

According to Deloitte’s research back in 2006, the L&D community found measurement as the number one challenge in training. Fast forward to today and the challenges for measuring impact are still the same.

Questions often asked are: Did we change behaviours?  What is training and learning’s impact on performance? Did training and learning help the organisation achieve a goal or drive a business strategy forward? 

Measurement in L&D is becoming even more prevalent in many organisations, looking to not only prove the return on investment for stakeholders, but also to provide actionable insights for L&D teams delivering projects.

I recently connected with Kevin M Yates, a global thought leader in measurement for learning and development. I think Kevin has a fresh view on measurement, focusing on mindset. Having delivered many successes in his career in learning and development for the last 20 years, Kevin has set himself apart by focusing on measurement.

For anyone in the L&D profession, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds so to speak, there’s lots of jargon around measurement that can confuse the matter more. Kevin has created a framework for measurement and is releasing his exciting new book later this year.

Kevin, nice to meet you – how did this all come about, why measurement, why now?

My journey to measurement is a very personal story. My focus on measurement for training and learning comes from me being at a crossroad in my career a few years ago.

I grew up in learning and development and have worn just about every hat you can wear; training facilitator, instructional designer, curriculum developer, learning solutions, learning technology, global learning, global programmes management, operations, etc.

The number one measure executives are looking for from L&D is business impact but only 8% see it.

I was thinking about leaving L&D because I was bored and not feeling challenged. Having served in as many roles as I had was a blessing and a curse.

Around the same time that I was having thoughts about leaving L&D, I met Patti Phillips with the ROI Institute. Patti and her husband Jack have a method by which they measure the impact of training and the monetary return on investment for talent development.

Shortly after that, I met Dick Handshaw, founder of Handshaw Consulting and a leading expert on human performance. My thinking about performance was totally transformed thanks to Dick’s coaching and mentoring. He helped me see the direct connect between training and performance impact. 

Thank goodness I met Dick, Patti and Jack because not only did I stay in L&D, I found a way to reinvent myself by changing my mindset and focusing on performance, measurement, data and analytics.

I stopped seeing myself as just a ‘training’ person and started seeing myself as an L&D practitioner providing training and learning solutions that measurably impact performance. I started focusing on measuring and evaluating L&D’s impact on people’s behavior, actions and how that behavior and those actions impacted organisation goals and business strategy.


Fast forward to today and I am engaged in work that is critically important for our profession. I believe it’s absolutely possible, fair and realistic to expect that we have facts, evidence and data for the impact of our work, and by impact I mean results.

For me, results are not how many people we’ve trained, how many courses we offered, the number of modalities through which we offer training, or whether or not employees ‘like’ training.

Results are impacting employees’ behaviour and performance with our training and learning solutions. When we deliver experiences and solutions that help people and the organisations they serve win, that’s results.   

So why measurement, why now?

Just as I found myself at a crossroads in my career a few years ago, I believe L&D is at a crossroads with being held accountable in ways it has not before. I believe the expectations are changing.

The LinkedIn 2017 Workplace Learning report showed the number one measure executives are looking for from L&D is business impact but only 8% see it. That means 92% of senior leaders and executives want to know how we’re helping organisations win and we haven’t shown them.

That’s embarrassing and says to me that our days of hiding behind ‘smiley sheets’ and counting courses and hours as an indication of impact are slowly coming to an end. Measurement is fact-based evidence for the impact of training and learning beyond what we hope, feel or believe about our training and learning solutions.  

At some point, and in the not too distant future, we won’t have the luxury of not having facts, evidence and data for the impact of our work. We will be consistently held accountable for results the same way operations, marketing, production and other teams in organisations already are.


About the author

Conor Gilligan is VP at Webanywhere


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