Survey: Relatively few companies base training on defined metrics
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Survey: Relatively few companies base training on defined metrics

Less than one-quarter of business organizations base the bulk of their learning activities on specific outcome-based metrics, according to a survey by a leading human capital research firm.

The survey, by Boca Raton, FL-based Brandon Hall Group, contacted 315 learning/training professionals at organizations ranging from 100 up to 5,000+ employees. Of these respondents, 4% said all their learning activities were based on specific metrics, while another 20% said most of them were.

By contrast, 31% of the respondents said only some of their employee learning was metric-based. Some 37% said few of their activities were, and 8% said none were.

Negative effects

Brandon Hall said this was a sorry state of affairs. “Without established, outcome-based metrics, organizations cannot tell how effective their learning is,” the firm said in a strategy brief reporting the survey results. “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.”

Brandon Hall saw a second negative effect of this lack of rigorous measurement, on employee attitudes toward learning and training.

“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,” Brandon Hall said. This “can have an enormous impact on both learning engagement and performance results.”

Why they don’t

There were numerous reasons why so many organizations lack the capability to measure the impact of employee learning.

Some 38% of respondents said they just didn’t have the right metrics. Slightly fewer — 37% — said they didn’t have the time or staff to measure learning impact.

Among other reasons cited by respondents:

  • 36% cited a lack of technology to support measurement
  • 34% said it was too hard to link learning to outcomes
  • 30% said learning impact was too difficult to assess, and
  • 27% said they didn’t see a need to measure learning impact

Getting better 

So what’s to be done, if your organization is among the 76% with learning measurement issues and you’d like to be better?

Brandon Hall’s principal analyst, David Wentworth, suggested these three guideposts for improvement:

Start at the beginning.

Measurement must be an integral part of the learning strategy and the development of learning programs. You can’t “tack on” measurement as an afterthought, after the learning has been delivered. You need to be clear at the outset what the intended outcomes are.

Focus on behaviors and outcomes.

Don’t content yourself with easy data like course completions and time spent training. Organizations should focus more on behavior change and performance to grasp the impact of employee learning.

Involve business stakeholders.

You need to partner with the rest of the business if learning truly wants to have an impact, instead of taking orders for training.


This blog entry is based on the Brandon Hall strategy brief, “How Do We Measure the Behavior Change and Business Impact of Learning?”

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