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Measuring the Business Impact of Learning: The Definitive Guide

With the widespread and rapid adoption of distance learning among organizations worldwide, learning tools and technologies have never been more important. But beyond simply using these tools, how can we begin to understand the impact learning is having within our organizations? And why is it important that we do? This guide is a collection of useful resources, articles, case studies, and ebooks to help you develop from measurement beginner to intermediate and, ultimately, advanced practitioner.

Measuring the impact of learning on business goals and KPIs is a vital step towards having a fully integrated, effective, and scalable learning strategy. This short guide is full of useful resources to help you with everything from getting started to proving learning ROI and ROE (return on expectation), and helping you create business cases for future learning initiatives. 

You’ll find links to resources from LEO Learning, our sister company Watershed, and external research that we’ve found useful and insightful on our own journey to understanding the impact of learning measurement.

To help make things more digestible, we’ve split the resources into the following sections:

  • Why measure the business impact of learning?
  • Results and reports from our annual measurement surveys
  • Getting started with learning measurement
  • Gathering and understanding learning data
  • Proving learning ROI/ROE and getting stakeholder buy-in
  • Measurement in action: Case studies to help put the theory into context

Why Measure the Business Impact of Learning?

With tools and technologies now more widespread than ever across the L&D profession and wider organization, data is much easier to come by. Measuring learning’s impact, even at Level 1 or 2 in the Kirkpatrick Model, is incredibly important when it comes to understanding the learning habits of your employees, as well as proving the value of L&D programs.

Simpler measurements can include completion rates, time spent in a learning management system (LMS) or learning experience platform (LXP), attendee counts from your virtual classrooms, and self-reported behavioral change. These can provide you with some useful insights, but you’ll find the most value in the analysis of wider sets of data. 

Through proper analysis and meaningful reporting, these broader data sets are where you can begin to understand the impact of learning programs. In order to do this, you need to align learning goals and measurement with business KPIs and objectives.

There are many benefits to measuring the business impact of learning, but the top ones include:

  • Understanding impact of learning beyond participation and uptake
  • Visibility of learning engagement – what’s working and what’s not
  • Proving learning ROI and learning ROE
  • Aiding the process of getting stakeholder buy-in
  • Improving learning design through strategic, evidence-based decisions

Results from Our Annual Measuring the Business Impact of Learning Survey (2017 onwards)

Every year, for five years now, LEO and Watershed have run a survey gauging attitudes and behaviors around measuring the business impact of learning. We’ve asked L&D professionals a range of questions to help understand where they are with the big issues—from executive pressure to measure and success measures, through to whether they have the technology available to do so.

Some headline stats from 2021’s report include:

  • 40.6% of respondents say COVID-19 has caused them to focus on operational changes over measurement
  • 60% agree or strongly agree that they feel executive pressure to measure business impact (up from 35% five years ago)
  • 94.9% want to measure the business impact of learning
  • We've seen a 30.7% increase in L&D teams whose success is measured by learner satisfaction

Below, you’ll find links to each of the reports. Take a look at how much has already changed, and get insights from experts at the top of the field about the future of learning measurement and business impact.

Below, you’ll find links to the reports. Take a look at how much has already changed, and get insights from experts at the top of the field about the future of learning measurement and business impact.

Getting Started With Learning Measurement

If learning measurement isn’t something you’ve done much or any of in the past, it can feel a little daunting. These resources should give you a helping hand when it comes to embarking on your learning measurement journey. Or perhaps you’ve started but want to make sure you’re on the right track.

Either way, the resources below will help you understand where to begin and in which direction to move forward.

10 Stages of Measuring the Business Impact of Learning [LEO - PDF]

Creating the Chain of Evidence: Real Stories of Practical Learning Measurement Strategies [LEO - downloadable PDF]

Build Your Capabilities With Our Learning Measurement Workshops [LEO blog post]

ADDIE: A Five-Step Process for Effective Training & Learning Evaluation [Watershed blog post]

Gathering and Understanding Learning Data

So you have a grasp of the basics and where to begin. The next step is to gather your data together in one place (most likely from varied sources), review the quality and depth of what you have, and then begin to analyze it using an appropriate tool or methodology. One of the most effective ways to do this is through a learning record store (LRS) or Learning Analytics Platform (LAP). But if you don’t have access to, or budget for, one of these tools, there are other things you can do to help you understand the data you’ve collected:

Making Sense of Learning Data [LEO blog post]

How to Use Data Insights to Shape Your Learning Strategy [LEO blog post]

How to Measure Learning and Development’s Business impact [Visier blog post]

Five Steps to Get Started with Learning Analytics [Watershed - downloadable PDF]

Getting Stakeholder Buy-In

Another key focus of your learning measurement journey is what to do with all of that analyzed data. As well as reporting on value to your business, it is of course, a good idea to use this data to inform your learning strategy.

However, beyond this, you can use your data to aid the process of gaining stakeholder buy-in for technologies, budget changes, and future learning initiatives. In order to make a real impact, start by aligning learning and business objectives.

Use your data to show what has been achieved and what can be achieved for the business through your learning initiatives. The resources below should help get you started.

Aligning L&D with Business Goals [Watershed blog post]

How to Get Stakeholder Buy-In for Learning Measurement Programs [LEO blog post]

Aligning Teamwork Goals: How to Get Stakeholder Buy-in For L&D Success [Watershed blog post]

Ready to start your learning measurement journey? Or do you have questions about measuring the business impact of learning? Our experts are here to help – get in touch.

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