L&D strategy: Measuring the benefits

Written by Armin Hopp on 9 May 2017

Many HR and L&D professionals are still struggling to get to grips with some of the basics when it comes to measuring the success of their efforts. Only 15% of the 199 learning and development professionals surveyed by the Association of Talent Development recently reported that their organisation measures the return on investment of any learning programmes.

Different organisations will measure return on investment in their own way. Some may favour precise quantitative measurement, while others are looking to see qualitative change. Whatever the hoped-for benefits, it is key to ensure that the learning programme is delivering them.

Many professionals have failed to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of their learning provision, according to Towards Maturity.

Only 17% know the opportunity costs of the different ways that staff learn. And at a time when reduced ‘time to competency’ and the ability to respond faster to business changes are key, the recent Towards Maturity study has revealed that only a quarter of (24%) L&D professionals know how long it takes learners to become competent in their job roles.

Here are some starting points to measure return on investment in learning and development in your organisation:

  • Identify the KPIs the organisation wants to improve in collaboration with senior business managers. These might range from increased productivity, higher levels of employee engagement or enhanced language skills across the organisation. Only a third (31%) of L&D leaders work with line managers to establish KPIs, according to Towards Maturity. These respondents were also more likely to report ongoing collaboration with the business. They are three times as likely to agree that their line managers play a role in actively supporting learning and four times as likely to measure KPIs when evaluating impact. They are also twice as likely as most L&D professionals to communicate the success of learning, a key component.
  • Don't be afraid to focus on financial KPIs. L&D professionals can tap into Dr. Jack Phillips’ ROI methodology, which supports the calculation of a concrete monetary return on investment. For example, Motorola found that for every dollar invested, it was able to drive as much as a 30% increase in employee productivity. This increased productivity enabled Motorola to cut costs and, as a result, increase profit by 47% [1].
  • Consider providing a language training programme, as this can be a low hanging fruit. Increase language skills and provide a highly measurable ROI in terms of increased sales, activity in new geographies and the ability of the organisation to attract top talent. If employees are able to talk to prospective clients and even suppliers in their own language, it is much easier to build a strong relationship. With diverse language skills, the organisation can plan to move into new, untapped marketplaces across the globe.

In an attempt to keep up with rivals and expand market share, organisations are spending increasing resources of time and money on learning and development. Yet, few are carrying out effective evaluation of its success. Evaluation need not be something that happens only at the end of the training programme.

It should be something that is planned for from the start and is part of every step of the learning process. At the beginning, data collected about the skills level of each employee should be subject to analysis before the learning and development programme starts – and the programme should be tweaked in response to findings, if necessary.

Evaluation activities should continue throughout the learning process, to assess which learners have completed the programme successfully and what the issues might be for people who appear to be struggling to finish the training.

When the training programme is complete, the fact of completion should not be a measure of success. Instead, consider looking at data around customer satisfaction, employee engagement, productivity, the range of skills available to the organisation and of course increases to the bottom line.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx. Speexx helps large organisations everywhere to drive productivity by empowering employee communication skills across borders. For more information about how to measure the return on investment of your learning strategy, take a look at the Speexx White Paper How to Master Measurement.

[1] ‘Doing the right things right’. By Laura Stack. Available on Google books.


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