April 1, 2021
How to Identify the Right Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs
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April 1, 2021
How to Identify the Right Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs
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Identifying the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your Learning and Development (L&D) programs is vital to create trainings that support the core strategy and tactics and drive business performance and success.

How Should You Select the Right Training KPIs?

The correct KPIs can ensure that Learning and Development programs support and drive vital enterprise strategy and tactics. L&D metrics track progress on specific measures – learner reaction to a course, number of people trained, knowledge assessment scores, or hours utilized in an LMS. However, this is not enough and combining traditional L&D metrics with Business metrics should form the basis for KPIs that inform and identify a Learning and Development program’s success.

For example, an insurance company may implement a training to improve the accuracy of estimates. The training or L&D metrics would indicate the number of employees who complete the training, their reaction, and knowledge assessment scores. While those numbers are important, a KPI would instead calculate the difference in estimate accuracy before and after the training.

How Does Identifying the Right Training KPIs Help L&D Teams Achieve Their Training Goals?

Successful Learning and Development programs align to both employee performance targets as well as corporate strategy and tactics. A Learning and Development program may seem effective based on metrics like utilization or reaction scores, but only legitimate KPIs identify actionable results. Inherent in this equation is the need to align employee performance targets with corporate strategy. This requires effective collaboration between the L&D team and business stakeholders.

For example, a customer service department may track and base performance reviews on call handle times, aiming for minimal customer interaction and short conversations. And yet, the corporate strategy depends on customer service scores, which may be negatively affected by short call times.

Once employee performance targets are aligned with the corporate strategy, it is a simple (although not easy) process to identify important KPIs. For example, does the sales team value call volume or the number of sales? Whichever KPI is more relevant, it must be identified and should be used to measure the impact of the training solution for the sales team.

What Strategies Can Help You Identify the Right Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs?

Some KPIs are Leading indicators and some are Lagging indicators. Early versions of Learning and Development programs can use Leading KPIs to iterate and improve knowledge or application evaluations. Lagging KPIs, often measured weeks after the training, should also inform iterations. These indicators should include business results like increased sales or enhanced customer satisfaction.

The list below can be used to identify the right KPIs for your training programs:

  1. Confirm that the training can solve business problemsCollaborate with business leaders to identify performance gaps and supply information needed to identify KPIs that will drive design and evaluation.
  2. Align the L&D programs with the corporate strategy: Articulating the correlation of a solution’s goals with the corporate strategy will drive effective KPI identification. Use artifacts like design documents and program charters to document the correlation.
  3. Leverage Training Needs Analysis (TNA): This phase should also be used to quantify the L&D metrics as well as Business metrics and KPIs so that training effectiveness and its impact on business can be measured.
  4. Move beyond hours of training and head counts: For too long, corporate training teams have conditioned business leaders to expect those numbers, losing credibility in the process. Legitimate KPIs map to results business leaders truly care about (for example, profitability, satisfaction, and engagement).
  5. Ensure that training KPIs are measurable: Subjective indicators, while potentially useful as anecdotal evidence, are usually weak indicators of training success or failure.
  6. Validate if the data is accessible by the training team: If the numbers used to calculate the KPIs are locked in an inaccessible database, find other KPIs.

What Common Mistakes Should You Avoid While Selecting Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs?

When determining training KPIs for your Learning and Development programs:

  1. Identify the KPIs before developing training solutions: This helps drive effective design and development. KPIs determined after the training design or development are unreliable at best, and at worst may indicate total failure.
  2. Avoid subjective results: Business leaders engage with hard numbers. Smile sheets and anecdotal comments may inform internal modifications, but they should not be included as KPIs.
  3. Ensure that the data used in the KPIs are available and reliable: Avoid the problem of garbage in, garbage out.
  4. Don’t ignore negative results: Failure is always an option. Honest reporting of negative KPIs ensures that future iterations of Learning and Development programs will be as effective as possible.
  5. Wait long enough to measure Lagging training KPIs: Often, KPIs are meaningless until a few weeks have passed and you can see the impact/otherwise.

Identifying the correct KPIs are important on both the front-end, when designing Learning and Development programs, as well as the back-end, when evaluating their effectiveness. The right KPIs will help you drive business results and ensure alignment with key corporate strategies and initiatives.

This article was first published in Training Industry.

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