Set learning KPIs that actually work

AuthorJoe Diamond

Are you still relying on the number of people trained, learner feedback forms or hours spent in your LMS as your key metrics?

While all of the above are still useful in certain contexts, they aren’t going to prove to business leaders that your learning programmes have worked. Successful L&D programmes align employee performance targets with the strategy and goals of the business.

How can you ensure your data reflects this?


Start with your business goals

Learning programmes should always begin with business goals in mind. How will learning help to achieve these goals (if, of course, learning is even the right solution at all?).

You need to be sure that training will help improve these measures. To do this, you can conduct a learning needs analysis (LNA) to help you understand what skills need to be developed to achieve both organisational and employee goals and objectives. If the organisation doesn’t have clear goals, it will be difficult for you to create the most suitable solution. If this is the case, you will need to ask questions that help nudge the organisation toward a more definitive goal or strategy.

Your LNA could begin with the following questions:

  • Who needs support through learning?
  • What do they need support with?
  • How are you going to create an effective learning pathway?
  • What is stopping them from performing currently?
  • Where does this fit into your L&D budget?
  • What impact will this have on both their development and the business?

This will help you to pinpoint the relevant KPIs and identify actionable results.

Let’s consider the KPIs that can be measured for a customer service team. These include:

  • Number of customer complaints
  • Number of support tickets
  • Cost per call
  • Customer satisfaction scores

If the corporate strategy places value on customer retention, you’ll want to look at reducing the number of complaints and improving customer satisfaction scores rather than focusing on cost per call.


Make your learning KPIs measurable

As Peter Drucker once famously said: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” What do you class as a return in relation to the business challenges you’ve identified? Is it cost? Revenue? Attainment? It’s not always just about the money – think about other critical measures for success.

To measure the impact of your training intervention, you must first baseline the data. Identify your criteria for success and measure where the business is currently so that you can compare results, before and after. It helps if you minimise the variables in the experiment so the results can be accurately attributed to your intervention.

Be wary of solely relying on subjective indicators, however. These are metrics that involve a personal perception or evaluation. Subjective indicators can be difficult to measure and can be a weak indicator of a learning programme’s success or failure. Your business leaders will want to see hard numbers and clear evidence, with a strong narrative to explain your case.

If you’re not sure where to start, an effective method to identify and measure KPIs at every stage is to select an appropriate learning evaluation model. The Kirkpatrick Phillips model, for example, uses KPIs at Level 4 (‘Results’) to measure the impact of the learner’s behaviour on the organisation. This model allows you to demonstrate clearly any measurable improvements to the business as part of a structured framework, from initial learner reaction through to measurable return on investment (ROI).

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How can your learning system help?

Once you’ve set your KPIs, it can be all too easy to become overwhelmed by data. Without knowing exactly what to look for, it’s all too easy to get lost in metrics and reports that fall short of value generation.

Learning analytics evaluates the impact of learning, whereas KPIs indicate the change in performance. To start proving results, you need to get comfortable with data analysis – something we’ve made easy in our free expert guide: ‘L&D’s guide to data analysis made simple’.

Fortunately, smarter learning systems like Thinqi are designed to do much of the heavy lifting around the data, to save you hours of time trawling through reports. You can see at a glance the insights you need into how employees are progressing and whether there are any gaps impacting key results.

For example, if you need to determine how quickly you can improve the performance of a team, think about a learner’s time to proficiency. The purpose of L&D is to enable employees to transform knowledge into applicable skills. The sooner learners are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil a business need, the sooner the business can reap results.

Using Thinqi, you could leverage the reporting facilities to determine the length of time it takes for people to complete a course. You can also look at how long it takes for that skill to be successfully demonstrated in the workplace using the Badges feature, which is designed with learning transfer in mind. You could then measure the time between a badge awarded for course completion and a second badge awarded by line managers for successful application of the desired behaviours.

Proving learning transfer is your way of showing the business what you already know: the right learning interventions bring real results.


Using learning technologies for future success

Tracking the path that high performers have taken can help you model training initiatives accordingly for future success. If, like Thinqi, your learning system has in-built xAPI (full name: Experience API) capability, you can track the types of interactions that a learner took to achieve high assessment scores and acquire the relevant knowledge. With attribution to workplace performance, this enables you to identify the most performant learning paths and help inform future training initiatives.

Perhaps you have a member of your customer service team who has completed training and, as a result, is now able to resolve issues more quickly and work through more help tickets. You can see her positive behaviours mirrored in the learning system; not only does she attend prescribed workshops and participate in discussions, but also engages in self-directed learning by consuming additional recommended resources.

With the help of xAPI data, you or your instructional designers can help shape future learning pathways for other employees in the customer service team by building supporting activities that high performers have previously taken.

The result? Increased customer satisfaction scores from a capable and skilled team – and an impressed leadership team.

In summary

Proving success and setting effective, measurable KPIs starts at the very beginning. This will not only help you drive business results, but will also ensure alignment with overall corporate strategies.

And remember, once you’ve collected those results, it’s time to tell the story behind the data – this is key to winning over your business leaders and raising the profile of the great work you do in L&D.

Think smart. Think measurable. Think Thinqi.

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