How to measure Learning Impact

You have recently launched a highly-anticipated company-wide learning initiative. You got the best facilitators, with air-tight content and now that the first few sessions seem to have received a positive response, you are in a celebratory mood.

There is still a sense of foreboding at the back of your mind. You are not quite sure if the participants are doing what they need to do on the job. You’ve done a first level survey that says the program was great, but you still don’t know if anything has changed on the job. It’s not physically possible for you to just walk over and check on them as the participants are spread all over the world!

You are not alone if you are wondering about the impact of the training. As per a recent LinkedIn Report on workplace learning, Business Impact is the No. 1 measure desired by business, yet less than 8% of organizations are actually demonstrating that. Most are still dependent on smiley sheets and program attendance to show the quantum of work being done, but not really the quality.

If we want to successfully measure returns on training, we need to change our approach and completely flip it.

One of the key foundational principles of the Kirkpatrick Four Levels® methodology begins with the end in mind.

Some of the pertinent questions you should be asking are:

Is this a training issue at all? Why do we need to conduct this training? Why do these sets of participants need to attend the training? What will change as a result of the intervention? What are the repercussions of having no intervention at all?

Here are a few points to consider before you even plan a learning intervention:

1. Probe for stakeholders’ desired results. What are those top-level needles that need to shift for a business to feel that the intervention has been a success?

2. Determine the key behaviors that participants will change on the job post-intervention. In Kirkpatrick terminology, these are called critical behaviors. Not fifty different things or twenty or ten just 2-3 of the top things participants MUST change on the job for positive impact to occur

3. Agree upon the more immediate indicators that will show whether or not the intervention is on track. In Kirkpatrick parlance, these are the leading indicators that tell us on a much quicker basis (than waiting for the final results) whether everything we are doing is leading to the right kind of change or not.

4. Contract with business unit stakeholders on the level of effort from them. A learning intervention will be as impactful as the level of post-training support participants receives. Managers and supervisors are an integral part of this support system. It is important to involve them at the very beginning and enlist their support if the intervention has to be a success.

Even having done all this, the evaluation journey still has some pitfalls. There may be a shortage of time or unavailability of data or simply results not pointing in the right direction.

Here are a few tips to make the evaluation journey more impactful and easier –

1. Use technology to measure the impact of training: Tools like Promote have been proven to help L&D professionals measure training. Key performance indicators are seamlessly built into the training programs.
Promote allows you to keep track of progress and to act on deviations and accomplishments in real-time and is fully aligned with the world’s greatest thought leaders in the evaluation of training and performance – Kirkpatrick and Brinkerhoff

2. Don’t just look for quantitative data: While hard numbers are important in showing results, softer aspects such as feedback from a supervisor or a client, a letter of appreciation, or other such qualitative aspects can also help in building a compelling chain of evidence. A chain of evidence proving that needles are shifting in the right direction at the individual – team – department – organization level.

3. Be agile: It may sometimes happen that even with having everything in place things don’t seem to move in the right direction. It is important to evaluate the data coming in and assess if there are any external factors causing hindrance. If not, it is prudent to go back and question if the critical behaviors and leading indicators identified are indeed correct. If not then there has to be constant monitoring and adjustment to ensure that the intervention moves in the right direction.


Measuring training can be tricky. However, if you have clarity on the goals, you will be able to show the true value of learning intervention.


Author: Preethi B. Rao

Head of Learning Effectiveness at C2C OD Pvt. Ltd.