Published on

January 29, 2024

Measuring L&D: Effective Evaluation Methods & Key KPIs

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Dr. Julian Rasch

Data Scientist


Learning Hub

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Learning and Development success measures

When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of training, many organisations neglect the process of evaluation, even though it is probably the most important step. In general, evaluation in the context of learning means that you collect all relevant information to decide whether your training is effective and worth the money, time and effort. Today we will give you a brief overview of the classic evaluation frameworks in the L&D industry. "Classic" doesn't mean old-fashioned or outdated techniques. In fact, these are the most widely used methods for evaluating the effectiveness of training in your organisation.

How do you measure successful L&D?

Measuring the effectiveness of training is critical to understanding how well a training programme impacts employee knowledge, skills, performance and return on investment (ROI). In order to determine the effectiveness of a training programme, the objectives of the training should be clearly defined before the training is delivered. This clear objective allows the impact of the training to be accurately measured and serves as a basis for future training decisions, such as continuing similar training methods or adapting the approach.

Important KPIs for L&D

In order to measure the effectiveness of L&D, it is important to define and monitor specific key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs serve as a benchmark for the success of training measures and allow organisations to accurately assess the value of their investment in employee development. KPIs that are often used include

  1. Training programme completion rate: This KPI indicates how many employees actually complete the training programmes offered. A high completion rate can indicate effective training and shows that participants are motivated to learn the knowledge offered.
  2. Application of skills learnt in the workplace: This KPI measures the extent to which participants actually apply the skills learnt in training in their daily work. A high application rate indicates that the training was relevant to practice and has a direct benefit for the employees' work performance.
  3. Change in key performance indicators: This KPI monitors how specific performance indicators have changed before and after the training. Key figures such as productivity, error rates or customer feedback can be used for this purpose. A positive change in these KPIs indicates that the training had a measurable impact on employee performance.
  4. Employee satisfaction and engagement: This KPI evaluates how training influences employee satisfaction and engagement. Indicators such as employee surveys, employee retention and feedback from superiors can provide information here. Increased satisfaction and engagement can indicate that the training has a positive impact on the working atmosphere and employee motivation.
  5. ROI of the training measures: This KPI calculates the financial return on investment in L&D. It compares the costs of running the training courses with the benefits achieved, such as increased productivity, increased turnover or improved quality. A positive ROI indicates that the investment in personnel development was profitable and created added value for the company.

Three effective methods for measuring the success of your L&D programme

Measuring the effectiveness of training programmes can be done using a variety of proven methods. Here are the most commonly used approaches:

Kirkpatrick's 4 levels of evaluation

One of the best-known methods for analysing and evaluating training programmes is the model developed by Dr Donald Kirkpatrick (1924 - 2014) in the 1950s. Since its creation, the Kirkpatrick model has undergone numerous extensions and is now considered one of the most renowned models for evaluating training programmes. It can be used before, during and after training to illustrate the value of the training programme for the company. The model postulates that an evaluation only brings added value if all four evaluation levels are taken into account, as they represent the process that a training participant goes through.

The four evaluation levels of the Kirkpatrick model are:

  1. Reaction: this level assesses the participant's reaction to the training. How did the learners feel about the experience? Was it enjoyable and motivating? The evaluation of the reaction is crucial as it shows whether the training motivates and engages the participants.
  2. Learning: The learning success of the participants is analysed here. Did they actually acquire new skills or knowledge? Has their performance improved? Reviewing learning success is important to determine whether the training objectives have been achieved.
  3. Behaviour: This level looks at the actual change in behaviour of the participants as a result of the training. Have they implemented what they have learnt in their day-to-day work? Reviewing behaviour is crucial to determine whether the training has had a measurable impact on participants' work behaviour.
  4. Results: At this final level, the final impact of the training on the organisation is assessed. What specific impact did the training have on productivity, sales or other areas of the business? Evaluating the results is important to assess the overall benefit of the training for the organisation.
    It is important to continuously collect and review feedback in order to respond quickly to any issues. Kirkpatrick also recommends using peer groups at each level to provide a meaningful comparison. In this way, the effectiveness of the training can be precisely assessed and improved if necessary.

Brinkerhoff's success case method

Another valuable approach for evaluating the effectiveness of personnel development measures is Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method (SCM). In contrast to purely quantitative approaches, this method focuses on qualitative analyses of a small group of participants. Originally developed by Robert Brinkerhoff, the SCM aims to identify and learn from both the most and least successful cases within a training programme.

The SCM helps to answer two fundamental questions: How well does a training programme work under optimal conditions? And if it does not work, what are the reasons for this?

The evaluation process includes the following steps:

  1. Setting training objectives and defining success: first, clarify what outcomes you want to achieve through the training and how success is defined. These clear objectives will later serve as qualitative metrics.
  2. Identify outliers: Analyse both the outstanding successes and the disappointing results. Split the participants into these two groups to gain insight into the factors that contributed to success or failure.
  3. Conduct in-depth interviews with the participants: Conduct in-depth interviews with participants to understand how the training has impacted their work. Identify the success factors of the programme and rule out negative influencing factors.
  4. Document the results: Based on the interviews, draw conclusions and derive recommendations. If necessary, create case studies and identify the success factors as a guide for future training programmes.

Although conducting the SCM requires time and resources, the results can provide significant insights. However, it is important to note that this method should be used in addition to quantitative analyses to get a comprehensive picture of the effectiveness of training programmes.

Anderson's Value of Learning Model

Anderson's model of learning evaluation, first published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2006, provides a three-stage evaluation cycle that aims to align the objectives of a training programme with an organisation's strategic priorities. Unlike other approaches, this model focuses less on evaluating individual programme outcomes and more on evaluating the learning strategy as a whole.

The three-stage cycle of the Anderson model includes:

  1. Determining the current alignment of training with strategic priorities: This stage assesses how well your organisation's learning aligns with business objectives, such as increasing sales, increasing production or developing new markets. It is crucial that the learning programmes support the company's strategic goals.
  2. Assessing and evaluating the contribution of learning: The biggest challenge is to accurately determine the contribution of training to organisational objectives. The model suggests using different methods to assess and evaluate the contribution of learning. These include assessing the learning function, expected return on investment (ROE), return on investment (ROI), benchmarks and capabilities.
  3. Identify your organisation's key approaches: Depending on your organisation's specific needs, the importance and choice of assessment methods will vary. The model provides a matrix to determine which measures best fit your organisation's needs.
Source: Watershed, An Overview: Anderson's Model for Learning Evaluation

As the Anderson model is a comprehensive framework, it is recommended that it is used in combination with other models such as the Kirkpatrick model to provide a holistic view of the value of the learning programme to the business. By using different evaluation approaches, organisations can gain a detailed understanding of the impact of their learning strategies and adjust them accordingly to effectively support strategic objectives.

Proving and measuring the ROI of L&D

In today's business world, all economic activities are carefully monitored, especially spending. Companies invest significant amounts of money in training their employees every year. Therefore, it is crucial to know how valuable these investments really are. Simple pre- and post-tests are no longer sufficient to evaluate the success of training programmes. Modern technologies and new evaluation approaches allow us to make learning processes more efficient and prove the actual ROI of L&D.

With digital learning methods, we can accurately track individual learning outcomes, identify immediate improvements and at the same time offer a highly personalised training programme for each employee. You don't have to limit yourself to a single method of evaluating learning effectiveness. It is advisable to combine several methods to get a comprehensive picture of the impact of your training programmes. Although not all approaches will necessarily lead to the same result, they should at least provide consistent conclusions and recommendations.

For a detailed discussion on how you can determine the ROI of your HR development measures, also visit our Founder Talk, which offers further insights and practical tips.

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