Regional Vice President EMEA SumTotal Systems
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Four learning metrics that improve business value

To truly assess the efficacy of learning programmes, organisations must take a data-driven approach, with a consistent set of metrics. In this regard, it helps to measure your efforts in four key categories.

3rd Dec 2020
Regional Vice President EMEA SumTotal Systems
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The only way to assess if employee training programmes are effective in your organisation is to measure them using a consistent set of metrics. Only by tracking, collecting and analysing employee data will an organisation truly understand whether employees are learning in the most efficient and effective way for them. Taking a data-driven approach also provides significant benefits from both a revenue and employee retention perspective.

With the increasing variety of metrics now available to L&D professionals, many may be confused as to how much they could be tracking to understand their employees’ learning efficiency better. 

Many organisations spend considerable time and money putting together specialised training programmes, but their employees and business may not be able to take full advantage of those investments. To truly understand and then generate improvements in learning efficacy and how learning positively impacts revenue and employee retention, your organisation needs to expand its use of metrics.

In 2019, total spending on employee training globally was estimated around $370.3 billion. Despite this figure being pre-Covid-19, during the pandemic in March 2020, the UK government introduced a £3 billion National Skills Fund to improve the technical skills of adults in the UK, highlighting that skills training is not just on the agenda for employers, but also for the country as a whole.

Effective learning is a win/win situation

Organisations are keen to invest in their employees to train them for their current roles, as well as reskilling and upskilling staff for future responsibilities. Recent research revealed that if a current employer invested in their learning and development (L&D), 94% of employees would stay at that organisation for a longer period.

This research clearly demonstrates that providing more learning opportunities benefits both individual employees and the organisation as a whole. For example, employees who spent over five hours per week on learning were more likely to know where they wanted to go in their career. They also felt less stressed at work than their peers who spent less than one hour a week on learning.

Change how you measure learner engagement

Many organisations find it difficult to measure the effectiveness of their training programmes, and there is no industry standard for determining learner engagement. To measure efficiency and engagement, learning and development professionals tend to use a mix of quantitative data (primarily the number of courses their learners complete) and qualitative information (notably from employee feedback in learning surveys).

To understand if an employee is an engaged learner, L&D professionals typically use two metrics – course completion and employee feedback – as well as the amount of time (minutes or hours) employees spend learning per month. Nevertheless, 24% of the L&D professionals questioned in the recent survey disclosed that they do not yet measure learner engagement based on online usage data.

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What to consider when broadening learning metrics

With the increasing variety of metrics now available to L&D professionals, many may be confused as to how much they could be tracking to understand their employees’ learning efficiency better. It may help organisations to look at metrics across four different categories – compliance, efficacy, emerging learning technologies, and business impact:

1. Measuring compliance

For organisations that operate in highly regulated environments, including financial services, healthcare, or pharmaceuticals, much of the learning provided to employees is compulsory. With this in mind, measuring and tracking course completion status, the total amount of time employees spent taking the course, and their course scores all play a vital role in the organisation’s ability to demonstrate regulatory compliance. To continue performing their current jobs, employees must pass compulsory courses and gain the required course certifications.

2. Understanding course efficacy and improvement

Courses that are aligned with newer e-learning standards like xAPI provide a wider and more nuanced set of metrics, as they focus on tracking and tracing experiences across different learning environments. This includes mobile, gamified, collaborative, offline, and simulated learning.

These newer metrics can pinpoint where an individual learner has paused within a training course as well as how long they spent viewing a particular training asset, such as a 30-minute video. By measuring more learning data, organisations can gain more understanding into how effective that course is as well as if employees are interacting well with it. Using these details, it is easier for organisations to understand how their employees learn and how L&D can create better training materials going forward so they are more engaged.

3. Measure the use of emerging learning methods

Training now rarely takes place in a traditional, in-person classroom setting. Many organisations are making the most of different methods to deliver more engaging training programmes, not just using e-learning, and micro-learning via laptops and mobile devices, but also virtual reality (VR).

Nowadays, virtual reality (VR) learning, as well as augmented reality and mixed reality, are key emerging forms that allow employees to engage in immersive simulations onsite, whether in the office, working remotely, or on the factory floor. By using VR, employees can practice a process in the virtual world immediately before performing those actions in the real world so that the time from learning a new skill to becoming productive can reduce.

Analysing the metrics provided through VR learning can be really useful to the organisation by improving training as well as increasing employee efficiency and overall performance in typical work situations. It can also highlight where an employee is experiencing issues and are delayed in moving forward within a given scenario. VR provides employees with access to a safe environment where they can make mistakes with zero consequences, and an opportunity to learn in the moment from those errors.

4. Understand how employee training impacts the organisation

For organisations to truly make the most of their employee training programmes, they need to understand how it impacts the business. This means L&D professionals must analyse broader metrics and work closely with their colleagues across the organisation. For example, to prove that a specific sales training initiative directly led to the sales teams closing more deals, L&D needs to be able to combine the learning metrics with sales metrics held in the company’s CRM system.

For maximum impact, before introducing new training programmes to employees, L&D must invest time working in collaboration with other departments to truly understand the learning objectives. The output here is creating a comprehensive list of goals for a new training programme, from both a learning and an overall business perspective. Learning investment can help organisations improve talent attraction, employee retention, customer satisfaction, as well as help grow revenue, but key to success is focused, measurable investment. By creating these goals, L&D professionals can then choose which metrics they’ll need to track employees’ progress towards realising those targets.

It’s important to understand how learning and talent metrics must function in combination with other business metrics. After all, organisations must prioritise both learning and business needs. Working closely with other departments will help L&D develop both the best learning content, as well as the most targeted audience for that training. Then, by taking a metrics-driven approach, L&D can clearly demonstrate how investment in learning is meeting the business objectives of the wider organisation.

Interested in this topic? Read Learning analytics: ten questions L&D detectives must ask to assess the impact of learning.

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