September 28, 2021

Measuring What Matters: 10 Learning Analytics to Live By

10 L&D analytics to live by graphic

The global training industry invests $370 billion annually. This considerable investment shows how important business leaders view staff training and development. The LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report 2021 shows that 63 percent of learning professionals agree that L&D has a seat at the executive table. And McKinsey reports that 67 percent of organizations are working more on skill building than pre-pandemic.

In an age of global disruption, more organizations understand how a robust, adaptive L&D program can prepare their people and the business for the future. But how can organizations effectively measure learning effectiveness and ROI? Metrics have changed over the years, especially as learning has added a variety of soft skills to the requisite technical skills, which are more easily measured.

We’re on a mission to help learning leaders navigate ROI and effectiveness. Leveraging our insights into the best practice programs and key metrics built into client projects serving nearly one million learners across the globe, this article looks at what L&D leaders typically measure and provides suggestions on opportunities where learning teams can go deeper.

Why Measure Learning?

Executives need a signal that the investment in learning is valuable. According to ROI Institute, 74 percent of executives expect ROI and 96 percent want business impact, yet these are measured in only 4 and 8 percent of businesses, respectively. HBR states when learning is “practical, supports organizational goals, and is provided for employees,” organizational performance improves. If executives want learning measured and it’s important to the business, why is measuring learning ROI so difficult?

The ROI calculation is simple:

Program Benefits – Program Costs

Program Costs

x 100 = ROI%                               

Current Challenges and Blind Spots

Learning teams rarely track the full breadth of program costs.

They track travel, meals and materials, but often exclude internal development, printing, facilitation, technology or time off the job. Learning teams must include the total program costs in ROI measurements.

Learning teams develop programs without clear business objectives.

Executives need increased sales, strong leaders and improved safety, but most programs lack direct alignment with business targets. Without clear costs and benefits, calculating ROI is, quite simply, impossible.

Learning teams don’t always measure effectiveness.

Analytics tools can help organizations better understand their talent needs and how those track with business needs. While analytics organizations can break jobs down into component tasks and explore how to free up employee capacity and costs, automating mundane tasks with technology and embracing social changes is an emerging trend.

Some skills are tougher to measure than others.

It’s all well and good to measure an employee’s competency around a technical skill or software, but how do you measure soft skills? They’re related to emotional intelligence and relationship building. They aren’t taught in college courses or vocational schools. They may not have direct cause-and-effect outcomes. But attempts have been made to measure soft skills, including assessment tools, 360-degree feedback instruments, employee engagement surveys and metrics that encourage behaviors to exhibit soft skills (for example, number of times per week you praise an employee).

What Is Measured Today?

Below are six of the most common measurements that organizations use today.

Infographic on what is measured today in Learning and Development programs

What Should Be Measured in the Future?

As technology matures and “Big Learning Data” emerges through xAPI connections and records storage, new methods for capturing data may provide valuable insights for refining your learning and training strategy.

Infographic of future measurements on Learning program effectiveness

What Can You Do Now?

Learning metrics are challenging, so here are a few tips that will move you closer to the holy grail.

  1. Do some research start talking to IT and Finance about gathering business requirements. They have defined methods for calculating expected benefits before projects launch. They can provide the language to align with senior executives.
  2. Think small and agile – don’t measure everything. Identify the hottest business issues and measure the pilot. Extrapolate organizational results from pilot data.
  3. Build technology skills – HR technology spending is growing within “employee learning systems,” so learning teams need the skills to talk to vendors and IT about how to leverage the new data.
  4. Start a scorecard – it may be one metric but start somewhere. Get a baseline and add to it over time. When executives see useful metrics in the language they speak, they will want more.

People are assets that increase in value over time, so make the best of your L&D spending. Invest it wisely. For more tips and insights on how learning can empower the workers and the workplace of the future, get your copy of our report on Finding the New Normal.



enterprise learning & development 2022 report