How to Measure the Business Impact of Learning

Current State

Most organizations struggle with learning measurement, mostly focusing on completion rates, course grades and smile sheets. Those pieces data can’t tell an organization much about learning’s impact on the business.

According to Brandon Hall GroupThink Like a CEO Study, measurement frameworks are all over the map, with nearly 40% reporting that they don’t know how their measurement approach reflects learning’s impact on individual and organizational performance. This reflects an environment where learning measures only its own efficiency and cannot demonstrate its impact in changing behaviors and improving performance.



There are numerous reasons companies are unable to measure learning at this level. Most companies are well aware they need to measure the impact of learning, but most are also ill-prepared to do it.

The single biggest concern here is the lack of priority from leadership. Learning leaders must prioritize linking learning to performance on behalf of the organization. Once they begin to see that it can be done and that the data tells a story, perhaps they will come to expect it.


Without established, outcome-based metrics, organizations cannot tell how effective their learning is. They are in a constant cycle of putting content out and hoping for the best. This makes it nearly impossible to ensure the learning strategy is aligned with the overall business strategy. Another consequence of an immature measurement model is the inability to provide learners with either a connection between the learning and their jobs/roles or the expected outcomes of their learning. These two items can have an enormous impact on both learning engagement and performance results.

Critical Questions

  • Do we have a framework for measuring learning effectiveness?
  • What metrics should we use to measure learning?
  • How do we move beyond Kirkpatrick Level 1 and Level 2 measurements?
  • What data is available to us outside of learning?
  • Are we including the proper stakeholders to help determine metrics?
  • What technology, if any, do we need to effectively measure and analyze?
  • What new measurement models should need consider as learning continues to evolve?

Brandon Hall GroupPOV

So much of learning measurement has been inward-facing because there was no connection to performance or the business.

Ultimately, it is about shifting the focus of learning measurement from efficiency — enrollments, completions, grades, etc. — to efficacy. Measuring how many people finished a course is meaningless unless you can show that those people who finished it are behaving or performing differently than those who did not. The outcome of learning cannot simply be that learning occurred. It has to be the behaviors that drive performance.

Think Like a CEO

Learn to speak the language of business inside the language of learning. Your deliverables are the company’s deliverables and your team has a critical role to play in the success of the business in the long term. Learning impacts business results. 60% of our respondents say that by becoming more proficient at measuring learning’s impact on performance, they are now viewed as a strategic partner.

Focus on Behaviors and Outcomes

Your starting point for learning and performance support design should always be defining the performances, behaviors and KPIs your stakeholders want to address. Those same measures should then be used in evaluating the effectiveness of the learning initiative and guide any required program adjustments. Stop getting stuck on “correlation is not always causation.” You’re looking for evidence, not statistical certainty.

More Measurement Is Good, Meaningful Measurement Is Better

It isn’t about just collecting more data. More data will help answer more questions, but it is better

to know what those questions are before data mining begins. Many organizations don’t measure learning because they don’t even know what they’re looking for. Stick to a proven strategy — or fail quickly with one that’s not working. But stick with learning measurement. Many of our respondents tell us they have shown an increase in proficiency — with learners and well as their learning function itself — from just two years ago.


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Matt Pittman



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Matt Pittman

Matt Pittman brings nearly 30 years of experience developing people and teams in a variety of settings and organizations. As an HR Practitioner, he has sat in nearly every seat including Learning and Leadership Development, Talent Management and Succession Planning, Talent Acquisition and as a Human Resources Business Partner. A significant part of those roles involved building out functions in organizations and driving large scale change efforts. As a Principal Analyst, Matt leverages this in-depth experience and expertise to provide clients and providers with breakthrough insights and ideas to drive their business forward.

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