Cracking the Code: Learning’s Impact on Results

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

For all the time, energy and effort put into the creation and delivery of learning, organizations are still not very good at measuring its impact. In fact, only half the companies in Brandon Hall Group’s 2019 Learning Measurement Study say they are either effective or very effective at measuring their formal learning programs. It’s far, far worse when it comes to informal (15%) and experiential (24%).

Somehow, we’ve convinced ourselves that learning programs are effective because exist. Therefore, companies need only measure whether or not people completed the program to prove its value. But that has never been true and we know it! Yet, the most commonly used metric for learning is course completions. I have absolutely zero idea how the fact that a certain percentage of employees completed a course translates into a meaningful result. It is simply a measure of the efficiency of learning, not the efficacy.

Companies know they need to be able to measure the impact learning makes on actual outcomes. But this is far more difficult than measuring smile sheets or hours spent on training. A big part of the problem is that learning has never been good at measuring its impact on specific business results. There are often many variables involved so learning gives up, saying it is impossible to demonstrate its influence. But learning clearly has an impact on business results or why do it at all?

In our research, we see high-performing companies with strong KPI performance are far more likely to use outcomes like employee engagement, individual performance and meeting corporate objectives as direct measures of their learning efforts. So, it can be done. It just takes planning, strategy and the tools to make it happen.

Determining outcomes at the beginning and designing the learning around them creates a straight line of sight between learning and results—  and quiets the d of other influencing variables. A new study from learning technology provider Axonify really shed some light on what is possible when it comes to measuring learning’s impact.

By analyzing data from hundreds of thousands of learners, Axonify discovered that clients using Axonify’s Impact solution were able to tie nearly one-third of business results back to the learning they provided. This is only possible because these companies built their learning around these outcomes and were able to track how they changed as people made their way through the training. Data like this can be a game-changer for organizations where learning has had trouble demonstrating its impact. Rather than ceding credit for results to other variables, learning can definitively claim its responsibility as one of those variables — and an incredibly influential one at that. These are not irrelevant outcomes, either. The types of things these companies  measure include:

  • Sales/Revenue
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Production/Efficiency
  • Quality Assurance

For me, one of the key takeaways from the Axonify study — beyond the clear possibility of measuring learning’s impact — is that they found that these results were really only achieved through continuous reinforcement and adaptation of the learning. Static event-based learning did not achieve the same results as a dynamic environment that gave learners opportunities to revisit and practice their learning.

David Wentworth, Principal Learning Analyst, Brandon Hall Group


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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.