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Evaluating the business impact of learning


According to an article by Harvard business review, though organizations spent USD 359 billion globally on learning and development in 2016, it was observed that:

  • 75% of 1500 managers surveyed across 50 firms were dissatisfied with their L&D

  • 70% of employees felt that they lacked skills needed to do their job

  • Only 12% of employees felt they applied new skills learnt to their jobs

  • Only 25% of employees believed that learning improves performance  

The three main reasons why learning fails in a company is that 1) People often learn to meet their annual performance KPIs instead of focusing on the business impact created 2) Most of the learning is offered without properly considering the end user needs 3) People fail to immediately apply the concepts learnt classroom or online learning to their workplace

In most cases, learning fails to create the desired business impact. Moreover, it is very difficult to measure the business impact of learning. Evaluating the business impact means to answer the fundamental question: Does the learning create enough value for my business ? And, value creation implies increase in the competency levels of individuals or teams, which in turn enables either revenue increase, cost savings and/or increased customer satisfaction.

How do I measure the business impact ?

The Kirkpatrick's model is one of the widely recognized method of assessing the results of training and learning programs.The model contains four main levels:

Level 1: Reaction

Level 2: Learning

Level 3: Behavior 

Level 4: Results

Level 1: Reaction

Whenever a new learning is introduced, the first step is to find out the people reaction. Did people like the training ? How did the find the content ? Were they satisfied with instructor's training style ?

The tool to measure the reaction is a simple survey or a feedback form. 

Level 2: Learning

Next step is to find out if the users have acquired the intended knowledge and skills at the end of the learning program.   

The tool to measure this is an assessment at both pre-learning and post-learning stages.


Level 3: Behavior

This is a very important step in the Kirkpatrick's model that focuses on the practical application of concepts learnt in the classroom to the workplace and development of appropriate behaviors accordingly.

There is no perfect tool or methodology to measure this. Some of the recommended best practices are preparing a development and application plan, continuous feedback and coaching.

Level 4: Results

This is the final level in the model that measures the direct results. It includes relevant KPIs to measure the increase in competence levels, revenue increase, cost savings and increased customer satisfaction 

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