Proving ROI: 15 Learning and Development Metrics That Matter

metrics for learning and development teams

Organizations want to be successful. They want to know that their efforts are providing benefits and that strategies put into place are providing the intended outcomes.

While strong sales are a universal measurement that any company hopes to experience, metrics related to learning and development programs might be more difficult to capture and analyze.

It is important to measure whether a course you provided to learners delivered the knowledge or skills it set out to do. But how can learning managers, instructional designers, or even senior leadership know what’s working and what’s not?

The importance of learning and development metrics

Learning and development metrics inform the L&D team, learning stakeholders, senior management, and even learners on program success.

However, not every learning initiative will be successful. Indeed, the very definition of success varies from organization to organization. But, without metrics for learning and development, processes cannot advance, and learners cannot improve their knowledge and capabilities. 

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” Peter Drucker, the “father” of modern management theory, was fond of saying.

Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of companies say that an inability to measure learning’s impact represents a challenge to achieving critical learning outcomes, according to a survey conducted by learning industry research firm Brandon Hall Group.

To address this shortfall, organizations must implement programs to select and track the right learning and development performance metrics, especially as they measure the impact of training on the organization’s bottom line. (Check out Cognota’s Insights Dashboard to easily visualize training needs, team efficiency, and learning impact all in one place.)

Without data or insights, no one will be able to agree whether goals were met or resources were properly utilized. 

Without a system to consistently capture data that can be compared against a standard, confusion and frustration will result—not only for learning leaders but ultimately for learners, who might receive poorly designed courses because previous processes weren’t measured or improved upon properly. With poorly designed courses, knowledge and skills acquisition can’t occur meaningfully or strategically.

Managers don’t just use training and development metrics to see how individual contributors are performing. Several roles and job functions would see benefit from such data, including:

  • Instructional designers and developers, who can better understand which pieces of content or course functionality resonated with learners and why. 
  • Learning leaders, who can uncover the rates of course completion, knowledge retention, and skill application, in order to determine which courses proved successful with learners and which did not.
  • Human resources leaders, who can integrate learning performance with comprehensive employee data for a more complete picture of the organization’s human capital.
  • Learning business partners or department managers, who can measure the impact of training on their team members’ job performance or team contributions.
  • Senior management, who can see the financial and organizational impact of employees with new skill sets and increased knowledge.

The top 15 L&D metrics you should be tracking right now

Let’s have a look at the top learning and development metrics that you should consider incorporating into your learning operations.

Training Intake Metrics

1. Volume of training requests

Training intake is the channel through which learning managers and, in some cases, individual employees can request training. Simply put, tracking the number of requests can help L&D determine which types of training are most in demand and how well the training intake system is working.

Understanding the popularity of the system might seem like a trivial metric, but it’s actually the opposite: a highly-sought after tool for capturing the attention of the L&D team to request training demonstrates how focused the organization is on upskilling/reskilling or acquiring knowledge to improve performance.

2. Percent of training intake requests that became learning experiences shipped to learners

While tracking the volume and types of requests is valuable, an intake system holds little purpose if the requests don’t come to fruition. 

The percentage of requests that eventually turn into learning experiences or support tools used by learners is a crucial way to measure the feasibility and appropriateness of requests that are submitted. 

If too many requests become courses, then perhaps the L&D team is too fast at launching courses, and the content might not be appropriate or deep enough. If too few training requests become courses, then perhaps the L&D team is under-resourced, or the requests are possibly being fulfilled by third-party, off-the-shelf resources.

Learning and Development Performance Metrics

3. Project completion rate

This may sound generic and unrelated to L&D, but the volume or percentage of projects completed is a measure of both individual and team performance.

However, this can still be tricky, and a good project manager should be able to set workflows and deadlines based on prior performance in order to set realistic goals. If too few projects are completed, it might mean that directions weren’t clear, deadlines were unrealistic, or tasks were improperly assigned. If too many projects are completed in too short a time frame, there might be quality issues.

4. L&D team capacity 

Further to the project completion rate is a performance metric related to team capacity. By looking at the contributions of each team member to the project and understanding the likelihood of that project getting completed with the highest quality, learning leaders can carry out capacity planning and later assign roles or tasks based on that capacity.

Without the team capacity metric, there can be no predictive value to the creation of projects and the matching of tasks to the right team members.

5. Project risk status 

This metric measures which projects and tasks are on track and which are at risk. This metric is a leading indicator for project completion rate, above, as it can provide learning leaders with a clearer picture of project health long before the project completes (or doesn’t). 

It stands to reason that the lower the risk, the higher the potential for project completion and success.

Learning Performance Metrics

6. Course attendance rates

It’s important to know who is accessing and attending the courses that L&D has provided for learners. Attendance rates are essential to capture if the courses are mandatory, such as those related to compliance. 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. 

A related metric to course attendance rates would be the number or percentage of users who access learning support tools as a way for L&D to gauge the popularity or usefulness of other types of learning, such as content shared in Wikis and intranets.

7. Course completion rates

More than simply attending a learning experience, completing a course is perhaps an even more critical metric. Completion rates are important not only for compliance-type courses but business managers want to know that their employees made attempts to fully learn and acquire skills or knowledge necessary to do their jobs.

Course completion rates can also help provide insights into how difficult, inconvenient, or even boring the course is. Too many people dropping out before completion can indicate to L&D that learners could not connect with the course for some reason, driving the need for a content, design, or programming change. 

8. Average time to completion

As yet another measure of learner engagement and interaction with the course, L&D can measure the average time to complete the course. 

Taking too long to complete the course—or even certain individual modules—can be a sign that the material is too difficult or is presented in a way that requires an excessive amount of time to complete. Conversely, a course that takes just a few minutes to complete can mean that the content was too thin or that too few concepts were presented in the course.

9. Course satisfaction scores

One of the easiest ways to capture engagement metrics, course satisfaction scores are collected via surveys issued post-training to learners. Such surveys simply ask learners to rate their satisfaction with the material that was just presented to them. 

While some feel that this is superficial—the data is self-reported and can fluctuate among learners—course satisfaction scores are the first step in determining whether the learning was meaningful to employees.

It stands to reason that higher satisfaction with the course can mean that learners felt engaged and energized. In turn, they are more likely to apply what they just learned to their jobs, leading to stronger outcomes, such as performance improvement.

10. Pass/fail rates or test scores

Test scores have long been a touchy subject, but this metric isn’t going away anytime soon. Testing the retention of course content can be valuable in predicting how much the learner actually learned and the likelihood of that employee using their newly acquired skills and knowledge on the job.

Some organizations use pass/fail or test scores in more clever, analytical ways. Some will issue the exam or assessment to learners before they take a course and then issue the same exam or evaluation after the course has been completed as a way to see how much of the material has been learned. If the scores are the same before and after taking the course, then perhaps the learner already knew the material, or the course and exam were too easy.

Operational Metrics

11. Incorporation of learning into daily job/tasks/role

Beyond assessment scores cited above, managers want to know that their employees cannot only complete a course with a high score but also apply what they learned to their jobs. 

This metric is much more difficult to capture and requires L&D to work with the business unit to determine how to measure the uptake of skills and knowledge. The business unit can find an improvement in job quality, an increase in calls/tickets handled, or another way to measure performance improvement as a result of a course.

12. Employee retention and recruiting

L&D programs are an appealing employee benefit and can serve as both a recruiting and retention tool. In fact, skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job, according to a 2021 Gallup survey conducted on behalf of Amazon and reported in SHRM. In the survey, 66% of workers aged 18-24 ranked learning new skills as the third-most important perk when evaluating new job opportunities, behind only health insurance and disability benefits.

L&D can work with HR to determine whether training has reduced turnover and lowered recruiting costs.

13. Rates of upskilling/reskilling/internal mobility

This metric is an extension of the employee retention and recruiting metric. If employees are learning and finding roles elsewhere in the company that meet their career/professional goals—and the company doesn’t need to recruit externally—then L&D programs are working. Upskilled/reskilled employees can fill open roles without HR needing to recruit.

L&D can work with HR to find out how many new positions have been filled internally as a result of trained employees.

14. Time or budget savings

Employees who lack training may be costing the company money: they are working too slowly, or they are making mistakes that need to be corrected. 

Measuring the time or budget savings after employees undergo training can be another operational metric that tracks L&D program success.

15. Increased revenues and profitability

The holy grail of L&D metrics is the impact that programs have on the organization’s revenues and profitability. Obviously, salespeople who have been trained effectively can sell more and deliver direct financial impact. 

However, for other roles, it can be a challenge to connect improved individual performance to that experienced by the organization as a whole. L&D would need to engage several departments to link data to different systems to obtain a clearer understanding of an employee’s contribution of value to the bottom line.

For example, product management professionals can be evaluated on the number of projects or tasks completed, on time with few issues, and the impact of that project—say, a new software feature or a new service offering—on the company’s revenues. If those product managers underwent job-specific training, and there was an improvement after the training, then it can be said that L&D’s efforts were impactful.  

How to jumpstart data gathering and get everyone on the same page

L&D success relies heavily on the data that can be captured at every stage of the process. However, this is no easy task; it continues to challenge learning leaders as new processes, technologies, preferences, and trends enter the world of instructional design and course development.

To help gather the employee training metrics needed to inform program success, L&D can consider the different moments that learning experiences are planned, developed, and shipped to learners. At each point, data can be captured because there are most likely digital platforms in use. 

Interactions at the multiple touch points throughout the course lifecycle include

  • Course request and ideation: These are metrics related to training intake and even research and brainstorming the courses and learning tools that would be most useful for learners 
  • Course development: Learning and development metrics examples collected at this stage can include the time and resources spent by employees and contractors to design, program, and test courses. 
  • Course delivery: Measuring how learners engage and interact with the learning experience is usually what comes to mind when considering L&D metrics. Such training metrics examples include the time for each learner to complete the course, the feedback or ratings from those learners, and assessments related to retention and application of the material presented.
  • Post-course delivery: Data collected to measure the longer-term impact on the department or the organization might be difficult to quantify but certainly fit within the scope of L&D metrics. 

With all of these touchpoints, data capture can still prove challenging. ​​LinkedIn Learning’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report cites measurement as a continuing challenge for learning leaders. As such, any data that can track the end-to-end development and delivery of learning experiences can drive value.

Oftentimes, L&D will need to work with other departments, including HR, IT, and the business units, to ensure that they capture, track, analyze, and make sense of the data needed to inform L&D programs.

However, L&D metrics should be used to measure program success—not simply to find inefficiencies, cost overruns, or failures, but also to identify areas where strategies and processes have exceeded expectations. The team can even consider employing a learning and development metrics dashboard for a birds-eye view of performance as it happens.

The goal of capturing and analyzing metrics should be to determine the relationship between resources and results. Once this relationship has been identified, learning leaders, and even senior leadership, can make decisions regarding the allocation of resources in order to address issues or supercharge success.

Capture L&D data with LearnOps® software 

When trying to measure ROI, metrics for learning and development can be a challenge to capture in environments that are constantly in flux. However, the right technology can unite processes, remove duplicate ones dragging the team down, and formalize those previously ad-hoc and carried out via disparate tools that don’t talk to one another. Uncovering the right metrics is the only way that you and your team better understand success.

As the first and only operations platform built explicitly for L&D teams and their processes, Cognota’s LearnOps® platform brings your entire workflow from intake to planning and design into one platform. Not only does this save time and create cost efficiencies, but you’ll get data on training coverage and the learning needs of your entire organization. Get started for free or speak with our sales team to learn more or book a personalized demo.

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Proving ROI: 15 Learning and Development Metrics That Matter