For 90% of L&D leaders, the hardest part of executing a learning and development program is demonstrating the return on investment. Let’s review 15 important metrics that will help you measure the ROI of training. In this post:

ROI of Training: The Importance of Learning and Development Metrics

The adage is heard consistently among learning and development professionals: 

What gets measured gets managed” as Peter Drucker once said.

L&D professionals more often than not focus on the execution of training more so than the planning and the measurement of it. Whether they operate within a comprehensive learning framework or collaborate internally with HR, the primary aim often remains to deliver training sessions. However, in the evolving realm of learning, the goal isn’t merely to deliver courses and assume learners will complete them. Instead, it’s about demonstrating tangible improvement to stakeholders.

Training ROI is the return on investment of providing guided and well-planned learning to employees. The goal for L&D is to provide a net positive impact for the ROI of training. The reason for collecting metrics for learning and development operations is to enable training teams to precisely assess the current state of their learners and to chart a course toward achieving desired outcomes with their training programs.

Without properly tracking data and analytical insights, it would be impossible to know where the training program is going right or wrong or going anywhere at all. Training data received by L&D specialists guide the training team in influencing clients, learners, and stakeholders alike on improving instructor-led training courses and improving learning operations for the better. 

Why is measuring metrics and collecting training data so important for L&D?

For most clients, L&D professionals need to prove to clients that the training they’re paying for will deliver a positive net learning ROI. Most organizations are reluctant to invest in training because there’s no defined way to measure the return on training. To bring Mr. Drucker into the conversation again, if there’s no proof that the training is working, why invest in training at all?

Thankfully training does have a positive impact and numerous studies conducted by internal T&D teams and third-party L&D professionals prove it. One key case indicated that training and development programs provide a threefold return on positive employee experiences and a sense of belonging.

Identify Where The Organization Needs to Improve

Knowing where to improve an organization starts with listening to your leaders and even better, listening to the employees that do the daily work. An article by Harvard Business Review on the state of learning and development found that:

  • 75% of managers were dissatisfied with how learning & development (L&D) operated.
  • 70% of employees didn’t have proficient comprehension of skills needed for their job.
  • A mere 12% of employees found their skills gained from training programs applicable to their jobs.

Even before a middle manager or an HR specialist provides an L&D team with the numbers of how departments are performing, getting a general understanding gives management an idea of where they need to make a strategic move in coaching their talent toward success.

Are surveys indicating an increase in job dissatisfaction with the work? Does the dislike of work from the employees come from a lack of career growth opportunities for their current roles? Understanding employee woes can help L&D create employee training programs that will boost talent and professional development. For example: 

  • If sales directors say, “The sales development team isn’t meeting their outbound leads goals,” it may be wise to develop a sales training program to help improve tactics and performance, while considering sales enablement software that can help deliver that training to your team faster.  
  • Similarly, “Partner companies in our supply chain don’t understand how to best utilize our product”, it’s time to lay down the foundations of extended enterprise training

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15 L&D Metrics that are Important for the Success of Training Programs

Now that we’ve identified learning and development as a vehicle for success in an organization, it’s time to decide which metrics will be your key performance indicators for your learning operation. 

L&D Team Metrics

Resource Bandwidth

A study by the Project Management Institute found that key stakeholders often allocate just 30 percent of their time on high-value work that adds value to any operational success. This underutilization of resources underscores the critical importance of effective resource planning and management for the success of L&D. By knowing how much time and resources they have, L&D teams can better plan training programs to meet client needs.

Measuring L&D resources can span different subsets of metrics including the number of qualified subject matter experts, equipment used for training, and the budget to be used. Nonetheless, planning for resource capacity and bandwidth for a learning operation must be designed with expectations in mind.

Training Program Capacity

Spreading instructors too thin or too little can prove to be a challenge for instructors. CIPD in their 2023 Learning at Work report found that 29% of instructors were overbooked for training courses due to poor capacity planning. 

Before executing a training program, L&D team members want to ensure adequate personnel for each. By observing the roles and responsibilities of each team member on each training project, L&D teams can better understand how to manage their team members’ use of time based on availability and schedules. Without training program capacity data, it is difficult for L&D teams to effectively create and manage training projects.

Training Client Project

A training client project aims to identify the scope and depth by which the hiring organization is looking to develop its personnel. Is it just one program on one skill or are we focusing on several skills over multiple training programs? 

Regardless, the training client project metric serves as a checklist for L&D team members to better understand the type of training their client is looking for and plan backward for the other key metrics that will follow.

Training cost per employee

How much does it cost to train a single employee? The formula is rather simple:

Training Cost per Employee = cost of training/ number of employees (x100)

L&D professionals would look at the scope of what would be needed to train employees on a set number of modules and subjects. The cost of training a single employee can provide insight into how much, or how little, an organization is investing in training its personnel in new skills or simply on onboarding. 

For example, according to the Association for Talent Development, the average cost for companies to train an employee was $1,252. In addition, the majority of training conducted by employers with usually onboarding training, with internal L&D spending an average of 33 hours per week on new hires. 

With training hours and costs a concern, training teams should look to implement blended learning as a strategy as a way to potentially reduce the cost of doing training but also not sacrifice the quality of it. 

Learning Performance Metrics

Course Attendance

While Woody Allen may have said “Eighty percent of success is showing up” the same isn’t true with regards to measuring the success of L&D. In a study conducted on the efficacy of eLearning, Will Thalheimer found that among respondents, 83% agreed that learner attendance alone is training. In terms of initiating training, this is a win however we know L&D has to do a lot more than just get learners to show up.

Course attendance as a KPI should be a first-level metric that explains how well can L&D get learners interested in the training at first. After they’ve gotten the learner’s attention, L&D should continue to provide an engaging learning experience that transcends course marketing.

 Keep in mind that training attendance rates are essential to capture if the courses are mandatory, such as those related to compliance training. However, attendance rates for elective courses can also be helpful for L&D, as they can show what employees have chosen to learn in their precious free time. 

Learning Engagement

 L&D doesn’t want to be the organization that makes learning mandatory just for the sake of it being, well, mandatory. The goal of L&D is to make the learning meaningful but also easy to interact with and exciting. By measuring learning engagement as a KPI, trainers will have a better understanding of how to have learners remain active throughout the training process.

Satisfaction Scores

With 11 percent of employees showing dissatisfaction with the current training opportunities offered, learner approval should be paramount when crafting the learning experience. Training should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved. If learners are unsatisfied with the instructor, the training material, or any other aspect of training, it needs to be accounted for so L&D has an idea of how to improve it. 

Test Scores and Pass Rates

L&D teams want to make sure that their team isn’t making the learning too hard or too easy. Of course, as trainers, we want to see high pass rates among learners in any course. Too low or too high of a pass rate can raise concerns as to how challenging the course is. 

Course Requirement Completion

Essentially the last check-list on the item of deliverables. To ensure that learners have a complete understanding of the curriculum of the training provided, we’ll want to ensure that they’ve met all the requirements. Courses are multilayered and can include multiple requirements set forth by training managers including attendance rates, assignment completion, and engagement rates (just to name a few). 

An increase in course completion only leads to an increase in productivity and growth. When employees are engaged in learning material that is both interesting and useful it becomes a win-win and can lead to a 200% increase in performance for the company.

Post-Training Metrics

Training Experience Satisfaction

Usually distributed at the end of a training course, a learner satisfaction survey helps trainers get a better understanding of how employees thought of the experience as a whole. From how the instructor interacted with the students to the functionality of the learning experience platform used. Usually, this can be provided as simple as a 1-10 rating scale or even a thorough evaluation. 

Employee Comprehension Metrics

After employees have gone through the gauntlet of training, department managers and directors want to see the fruits of their labor. How well were employees able to apply their new skills on the job? Another Harvard Business Review study recommended on-the-job training with particular learning objectives by incorporating the two in real time. This way, employees were learning and working simultaneously. 

Measuring comprehension of the learning content can be more difficult to capture in its entirety, however, L&D can take note of results in how certain areas of the business’ function improved post-training. For example, if there was an increase in workplace violations following safety protocol, we would expect this number to decrease if test scores were up.

Employee Retention and Recruiting

In a survey by 360Learning, respondents rated the importance of learning and development in job satisfaction as 84 out of 100. The result was highly suggestive that training played a key role in boosting employee retention and recruiting. Aside from providing a competitive compensation package, skills training was a top perk workers looked for when looking for a new job according to a 2021 Gallup survey. 

L&D teams are on a mission to develop and keep talent. Training programs are beneficial in that they act as an extension of HR’s strategy for recruiting and retaining talent. The robustness of training can help reduce the need to train new employees from the ground up and can also attract young job seekers looking to expand their skill sets.

Upskill and Reskill Rate

With a sharper focus on employee training and development in 2023 and beyond, upskill and reskill rates are essential for both employee and employer growth for a variety of reasons. It’s also an exciting metric to measure on the L&D side as it provides insight into internal mobility and employee development. These metrics are fascinating from a T&D perspective as they allow trainers to gauge whether training has been effective in promoting team members within the company and creating room for new hires to take their place. 

As a result, providing the upskill and re-skill metrics to HR can give better insight into which positions they will need to prioritize over others.  

Time and Budget Utilization

A recent study showed that 82% of workers don’t have any sort of time management system. When trainees are learning at a less-than-ideal pace or worse, not even learning at all, it can cost L&D and the organization as a whole valuable time and money. 

By measuring struggling learners, L&D can set aside noted employees to put them on a separate track or provide one-on-one guidance that doesn’t affect the training program as a whole so as not to expend resources. After all, Time is money.

Profitability

The main metric that connects L&D with the organization’s operations is the impact its multiple training programs have on increasing profitability. Why? L&D’s main goal is to provide operational efficiency for the company by making employees better at their jobs. The result of course should be increased output at a reduced rate of work.

However, it doesn’t mean to say that more profits after L&D is complete is the only key metric. Other organizations seek L&D services to improve communication within departments or to provide streamlined lessons on external operations, both of which don’t rely on using increased revenue as a metric. For example, a development team would like to reduce the amount of error log cases between them and their product team. To address the situation, L&D would provide training on how the QA process can be better handled between stakeholders to reduce the amount of requests going to web developers.

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Improving L&D Operations Starts with Collecting Data

Successful L&D teams will now more than ever be required to have solid data to back that training is a must for employees of any organization. Because of this standard, they must capture every piece of data under the learning KPIs above and act as an agent of change for their client’s learners. 

The biggest challenge for L&D collecting data is understanding how to best measure their selected metrics and then make the modifications necessary for the improvement. Gathering employee training metrics can be measured using several critical moments during predefined learner-to-trainer interactions. The great thing about these interactions is that L&D teams can observe these interactions in real-time on digital platforms like their CRM or even their LMS.

Interactions can include several points of interest for L&D back-office team members and should have a keen eye on them:

  • Training Program and Course Preparation: L&D team members can examine the needs of their learners best at this stage. While never always perfect, L&D has the opportunity to design a comprehensive program with a series of courses that address learner needs in the fastest and most efficient way possible. It’s where L&D can make big strides in using a combination of eLearning modules and ILT and VILT delivery. 
  • Course Delivery: How well is the training making an impact on the learners? L&D at this stage will want to keep a keen eye on how the learner interacts with the resources that are provided by the back-office team. Fundamental learner interactions they should be paying attention to are attendance, completion, engagement, as well as retention and application of training material covered. 
  • Post Course Completion Delivery: After all courses within the training program have been completed, L&D teams will have more data than they probably started with. When properly quantified and organized, data collected at this stage can answer more questions about how the L&D team or the client can move forward with their respective operations.

The L&D team cannot have all the solutions to improving training for their learners. In the same way, instructor-led seminars are a back-and-forth of questions and solutions, so too should the process of finding out what should be measured. L&D teams must speak with key figures in their client’s organizations, from HR to IT, to department directors, and to senior management in identifying where they can best optimize learning for the benefit of their learners. When L&D is informed of different perspectives of what can be improved, it gives them more insight into how they can better provide quality training experiences. 

Using L&D metrics is meant purely as criteria to guide training programs toward efficiency. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive audit of how well an organization is run and to nitpick every single detail wrong with how employees and departments communicate with each other. The better data L&D has, the better they can craft a strategy on how to move the organization forward.

Accurately Measuring Your L&D Success with Training Management Software

Measuring the success of your L&D projects can prove to be challenging with so many variables at play between learners, clients, and the back-office team. Even when the data has been recorded the next step is to turn that data into a story that tells something deeper about how the training operation is performing on all ends. 

It’s a critical reason why establishing the proper learning and development metrics and then using the right software can help guide the functions of your L&D operations for improved client success.

Designed with training companies and L&D teams in mind, Training Orchestra provides a comprehensive training management system that handles learning management from inception to delivery to the learner –  all in one complete platform. Whether your team is focused on acquiring accurate data and providing robust reporting or you’re looking to have a system that can better manage your course scheduling efforts, we cover the needs of your entire organization. 

Training Orchestra – Training Operations Management System

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For over 20 years, Training Orchestra has helped over 600 training companies, corporate L&D departments, and associations worldwide to address instructor-led training operations management challenges for their employee, customer, partner, or member training programs. We’ve crafted the perfect training management system to address the most critical needs of corporate L&D and training businesses.

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