SumTotal Blog

Broaden Your Learning Metrics to Gain Insights into Learning Efficacy and Business Value

September 18, 2020 | by SumTotal Blog | 6 min read
To truly understand and then effect improvements in learning efficacy and how learning positively impacts revenue and employee retention, your organization needs to expand its use of metrics.

Organizations invest substantial amounts of money and time into designing and delivering training programs, but your employees and your business may not realize the full benefits of those investments. To truly understand and then effect improvements in learning efficacy and how learning positively impacts revenue and employee retention, your organization needs to expand its use of metrics.

To put learning investment into perspective, in 2019, total spending on employee training globally was estimated at $370.3 billion. The average training budget for organizations employing 10,000 or more employees in North America was $17.7 million. On average, those organizations’ training expenditure per learner was $1,544 in 2019, up from $1,046 in 2018.

Effective learning provides mutual benefits to organizations and employees

Organizations are keen to invest in their employees to train them for their current roles and reskill and upskill staff for future responsibilities. If a current employer invested in their learning and development, 94% of surveyed employees said they would stay at that organization for a longer period, according to research from LinkedIn.

The research highlighted that providing more learning opportunities benefits both individual employees and the organization as a whole. For instance, employees who spent over five hours per week on learning were more likely to know where they wanted to go in their career and to have already found greater purpose in their work, while also feeling less stressed at work than their peers who spent less than one hour a week on learning.

Rethink how you determine learning efficacy and define learner engagement

However, organizations often struggle when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of their learning programs, and there is no industry standard for determining learner engagement. So, how do learning and development professionals measure efficacy and engagement? They tend to rely on a mix of quantitative data – primarily the number of courses their learners complete – and qualitative information – notably from employee feedback in learning surveys, according to a 2020 LinkedIn workplace learning report.

The L&D professionals typically then use those two metrics – course completion and employee feedback, plus the amount of time – minutes or hours — employees spend learning per month, to arrive at a definition of what constitutes an “engaged learner” at their organization. However, interestingly, 24% of the surveyed L&D professionals revealed that they do not yet measure learner engagement based on online usage data.

4 different categories to consider when expanding your learning metrics

There’s a gap between the limited number of metrics many organizations are using today to assess their learning programs and the much larger range of measurements available to them, which they could be tracking. As you investigate broadening your usage of metrics, it may help to look at metrics across four different categories—compliance, efficacy, emerging learning technologies, and business impact.

1. Metrics to demonstrate compliance. If your organization operates in a highly-regulated environment, such as financial services, healthcare, or pharmaceuticals, most, if not all, of the learning you provide to your employees, will be mandatory

In this case, tracking and measuring course completion status, the total amount of time your learners spent taking the course, and their course scores all play a critical role in your organization’s ability to demonstrate regulatory compliance. To continue performing their current jobs, your employees must pass mandated courses and gain the required course certifications.

Courses that comply with older e-learning content technical standards, like SCORM, focus on tracking and tracing formal learning with a learning management system (LMS) on a computer or a laptop. These standards provide the kind of metrics that are important in helping organizations demonstrate regulatory compliance.

2.Metrics to drive course efficacy and improvement. Courses that comply with newer e-learning standards like xAPI provide a wider and more nuanced set of metrics since they focus on tracking and tracing experiences across different learning environments, including mobile, gamified, collaborative, offline, and simulated learning.

The standards generate metrics that can reveal, for example, where an individual learner or a group of learners paused within a training course, how long they spent viewing a particular training asset like a 30-minute video, and whether or not they chose to annotate, bookmark or favorite that particular course. These measurements can give your organization more insight into the current efficacy of a course, as well as a better idea of how your employees learn and interact with the training that you’ve provided to them. From that information, you can arrive at insights into what might be needed to better match that course to the needs of learners so that the training becomes both more effective and more relevant.

3. Metrics to help optimize the usage of emerging learning modalities. Organizations are starting to use additional modalities to help deliver more engaging training to employees beyond traditional in-person classroom training or e-learning and micro-learning via computers and mobile devices.

Virtual reality (VR) learning, as well as augmented reality and mixed reality, are key emerging disciplines, and are ones which allow your learners to engage in immersive simulations in situ, whether in the office, working remotely, or on the factory floor or production line. Your employees can walk through a process in the virtual world immediately before performing those actions in the real world so that the time from learning a new skill to becoming productive can be shorter.

VR learning provides a wealth of metrics which can be very helpful to your organization to assist in improving training as well as increasing employee efficiency and overall performance in typical work situations. You can track where an employee is experiencing problems and are delayed in moving forward within a given scenario. VR provides a learner with access to a safe environment where they can make mistakes with zero consequences, and an opportunity to learn in the moment from those errors.

4. Metrics to link learning improvements to business impacts. To truly tie training back to a meaningful organizational value, L&D professionals need to look at a broader metrics picture and work more closely with their colleagues elsewhere in the business. For instance, if you want to prove that a sales training initiative directly led to your sales teams to close more deals, you need to be able to combine your learning metrics with sales metrics held in your CRM system.

Organizations need to invest time in some upfront work before introducing new training programs. Sit down with your business peers and collaborate with them on defining what your goals for a new program are, from both a learning and an overall business perspective. For example, your intention may be that a learning investment will improve talent attraction, employee retention, customer satisfaction, or help grow your revenue. With your goals in hand, you can then choose which metrics you’ll need to track your progress towards realizing those targets.

Make sense of learning and talent metrics in combination with other business metrics

Ultimately, you want to put a virtuous cycle around learning and business needs in place, where both L&D and business groups work together to agree upon and define goals. This will also help define the learning content and the best audience for that training. Then, use metrics to help show that those targets are being met.

How are organizations like yours using learning metrics to help drive continuous improvements to the quality and relevance of the training you provide to employees? Learn more about how to visualize, understand, and measure the efficacy and impact of learning and talent development programs across your organization.

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