by E. Sprague | May 18, 2020 | 5 Min Read

3 Steps to KPI Training Measurement Success

Business people discussing market research statistics during business meeting

This article is written by our featured guest writer, Erin Sprague.

I'll never forget the first time I had to answer a question about how to measure training effectiveness.

Seven years ago, I was interviewing for what would be my first learning manager role. Up until that point, I'd been a facilitator. I primarily based KPIs on whether or not my learners enjoyed me as a facilitator.

What does KPI stand for? Key performance indicators. Think of key performance indicators (KPIs) as indicators of training needs. Once identified, KPIs can help you improve training effectiveness.

At my job as a learning facilitator, important marketing metrics were considered from time to time (e.g., how many learners advanced into next level selling roles, the average number of deals closed per month by the team members in our training classes, etc.). Yet, we had never focused our learning design and reflection conversations around KPIs.

The moment I was asked how to measure training effectiveness, I realized I never considered developing key performance indicators for employee training. And believe me, an interview is NOT where you want to have this moment...

Flash forward. I was finishing up my first year at the company where I landed that training manager role.

My leader wanted me to pull together a presentation for the C-Level executives highlighting the learning programs we created. I had to demonstrate the impact we had on the team and ask for an additional 1-2 learning team members.

*cue nervous sweating gif again*

Over the past few years, I've made a complete 180-degree turn in terms of my attitude towards measuring learning impact – shifting from a "nice-to-have" to a "must-have" mentality. Now, I bake measurement into every step of the learning process, from design and deployment to reflection.

Here are some of my key learnings and recommendations to help you start measuring what matters, regardless of where you are in your "measurement" journey.

Step 1. Identify what's important to your team, your learners, and your stakeholders.

Looking back on the startup organization I worked with, there were some easy wins for the learning team in terms of measurement. Team members had explicit targets that determined their advancement, which made designing appropriate and impactful learning programs easy.

But, we could have taken it one step further and closely reviewed the training KPI strengths and weaknesses. When your stakeholders approach you with a learning request, or when you make a learning recommendation, be sure to connect these to a real need:

  • Is the stakeholder looking to improve employee engagement through a fun activity?
  • Are they responding to low customer feedback scores from the Customer Service team?
  • Are they looking for a lift in sales in a key product line or service?

Whatever it is, strategic goals need to be explicitly defined. Too often, we jump right to the solutions before our objectives are clearly defined, aligned, and recorded.

Identifying expectations and the desired result gets learning teams, and stakeholders, on the same page before training even begins. Ask these critical questions at the intake meeting:

  • What do you want to look different after team members have completed this training?
  • How will you know if the training program was successful?

Once you identify organizational key performance indicators, it’s time to learn how to measure training effectiveness.

Step 2. Understand the different types of measurement.

“What are some metrics for evaluating training and development?” Well, I’m glad you asked.  There are many articles, books, webinars, etc. dedicated to the topic of how to measure training effectiveness. One of the most commonly utilized tools for segmenting types of measurement is the Kirkpatrick Model.

I was introduced to this system when I was part of a large, experienced learning team. At first, I was worried I would be required to take a full college course or program to understand it. However, that is not the case. The majority of what Kirkpatrick identifies are common tools and systems that many of us use today.

Many of these tools are free (SurveyMonkey) or require you to review existing internal data points (Salesforce, HR people data) to begin developing a baseline and target scores for your learning team.

Here's a brief synopsis for those who aren't familiar with the Kirkpatrick Model:

Level 1 – Reaction

Objective: Measure the learner's experience post-training.

KPIs include surveys, empathy interviews, LMS ratings, rates of attendance, NPS scores, etc.

Level 2 – Learning

Objective: Measure the learning retained from the training.

KPIs include pre- and post-learning tests, quizzes, performance scorecards, trivia games, etc.

Level 3 – Behavior

Level 3 is where you begin to quantify the KPI metrics of corporate learning by measuring its impact against the organization's development.

Objective: Measure the impact the learning had on the skill or ability of a learner.

KPIs include pre- and post-learning behavior assessments, performance scorecards, coaching behavior forms, competency assessments, commitment plans with tracked progress, etc.

Level 4 – Results

Objective: Determine the level of impact on predetermined targets and goals that were a result of employee training.

KPIs include mystery shopper results, revenues, customer satisfaction scores, attrition rates, employee engagement surveys, overall business performance, third party rankings, etc.

Step 3. Develop a measurement strategy.

When thinking about developing an overarching learning strategy, it can feel overwhelming. But, developing a holistic measurement strategy sets the standard on how to measure training effectiveness in your organization.

Work with your learning team and stakeholders, using Step 1 and Step 2 as a starting point, to identify what training aspects you want to measure:

  • Team member engagement.
  • Satisfaction with the learning.
  • Time spent learning.
  • Modalities offered.
  • Quality of the facilitator.
  • Ability to comprehend the material.
  • ROI.

Given the complexity of determining ROI for corporate training, dedicate your time and resources to programs that are the biggest investment or have the highest levels of participation in your organization.

Consider the types of training you plan to offer and the importance and investment in each program:

  • Are any of the programs compliance-driven, requiring reporting and tracking to a governing body?
  • Are any of the programs voluntary or primarily offered for team member support and interest?
  • Are any of the programs costly and, therefore, budgeted with specific expectations and outcomes in mind?

Finally, by examining your organization and team member's day-to-day tasks, you can brainstorm different types of technology you will want to leverage to capture learner data. Is your team mostly remote or based at scattered and various retail locations? Consider leveraging a mobile-friendly application that can direct surveys or tests directly to your team members on their mobile devices.

Strive for consistency and accessibility in your learning strategy. By setting proactive expectations with your leadership and client groups, you will ensure an aligned and connected vision and be able to tell a "success story" that resonates with your key customers.

Key Challenges in Measuring Learning

The limitations of key performance indicators include data variables and a lack of resources. Not everything is crystal clear. Communicating the challenges of learning measurement helps (1) set realistic expectations for stakeholders and (2) give learning professionals a reasonable time frame to measure and report KPIs.

Challenge 1: Variables

Corporate learning professionals need to innovate and involve data in decision-making, strategy development, and business-case positioning to provide value and gain buy-in from stakeholders. Learning teams must identify and include variables in measurement conversations focusing on impact vs. ROI:
Industry trends.

  • Consumer trends.
  • Average skill level.
  • Experience across your learner group.

Challenge 2: Resources

The more complex your measurements are, the more you will need to collaborate and partner with other team members across your organization. Recently, I was working on a learning program where we pursued a Level 4 (Results) measurement set. My manager led the team, and it took six months to pull in the resources and data, and to align on the right ways to assess the business results related to the program.

Establish a clear strategy to let your partners know what you will need from them and why it's important. Connect with other departments (e.g., HR, Sales, Marketing, Operations, Legal, Finance) to report deeper levels of measurement for your learning programs.

Unboxed Training & Technology: Your Training Partner

Now that you know the answer to the question, “why is evaluation of training effectiveness necessary?” Start defining your organization’s KPIs to measure better and validate the impact training has on learners.

If this all seems like a foreign language, or a strategy you have not been able to master, think of us as your partners in training!

At Unboxed Training & Technology, we help organizations like yours implement employee training that learners actually retain and enjoy. Make strategic and data-driven changes to your learning design and investments today. Request a demo or give our team a call at (888) 723-9770.

Erin Sprague is a seasoned sales professional, career coach, and learning & development leader. She has a passion for connecting the dots between capability analysis, feedback from business leaders, and sales results, in order to create training & development programs that allow learners to thrive, and drive results for the organization.

A native of Western Michigan, Erin is a recent transplant to Washington, D.C after spending 15 years in Chicago, Illinois. She has worked for companies large, (Hilton, Kraft Heinz), medium (Groupon), and small (Trustwave), always in or alongside sales teams. She has delivered consistent results for these companies – driving participation, engagement, performance, and high satisfaction across trainees.

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