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Measuring the Business Impact of L&D: First, Honor the Reality of Now

23 October 2020

3 Min Read


This is part one of a four-part series on how L&D teams can effectively evaluate, measure, and demonstrate the business impact of their learning and development programs. See parts two, three, and four here.

To improve how L&D teams measure and demonstrate the business impact of training, they must first honor the reality that not only has it been a challenge to provide detailed insights into the effectiveness of training, but the pandemic and resulting shift to remote work has significantly upped the ante for their need to provide this information. 

Learning teams are often tasked with providing many different proof points, but the core metrics include:

  • Proving the value of learning
  • Measuring engagement and effectiveness
  • Improving the effectiveness and design of learning programs
  • Justifying increased investment in learning and learning technology

There is a tremendous amount of opportunity in the measurement and impact of training. In a Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn, it was found that only 8% of CEOs saw the business impact of L&D programs. Even fewer (4%) saw a clear ROI.

This tells us that L&D teams have a lot of work to do to change the perspective and perceptions and help connect the dots. To do that effectively, they have to start with the end in mind.

It’s clear that measuring impact is an ongoing challenge for L&D. But why is this such a pressing matter right now?

The COVID-19 Catalyst to ‘Respond and Reset’

The pandemic has been one of the biggest mechanisms for change that L&D has ever experienced. Many L&D teams have had to revamp their approach or focus more on addressing the changes their business needed to accommodate the pandemic shift. 

Let’s look at the journey companies have been on for the last few months. When we think about change management, this can be compared to the “unfreeze/change/refreeze” model:

Lockdown = Unfreeze—Preparing for the change

Reopening = Change—Implementing the change

New Normal = Refreeze—Stabilizing the change

While many companies follow this model, research company Gartner sees the pandemic response as a three-phase cycle of “respond/recover/renew,” and allows for the varying duration of each phase by country, industry, and enterprise—and even by business unit, product, or service, which can be a better fit for many companies as they navigate each ‘new normal.’

What Does This Mean for L&D?

Companies cannot simply ignore training needs. In many cases, they’re having to keep their foot on the gas and make changes as they reorient to the current normal. This includes training. Companies realize that learning cannot be put on hold and that L&D needs to be brought in at a strategic level.

Whether we talk about COVID-19 impacts or the next big shift in business, the role of L&D is expanding to represent learning solutions, not just ‘training courses.’ This includes diverse technology, multiple platforms, formal and informal learning, development, coaching, and more.

The Impact of Remote Working

Among the changes brought on by the pandemic, one was new for all of us: remote working.

As of April 2020, the thought was 20-25% of the workforce would be working from home by the end of 2021. As recently as August, many companies stated they expect this to be more like 50-75%.

The ripple effects of this are massive. Not only does L&D have to rethink their training delivery format, but they also have to think about changing learning objectives, rescoping training modules, and accounting for workplace environment changes and distractions.

Chances are that learning programs for remote teams didn’t start with the intention of measuring business impact. They probably started with something like… there is a firego put it outcontent now! But it’s never too late to change course. To get started, ask yourself:

  • How can I know if our learning investment is paying off?
  • How can I learn where our online training program is most effective and where it’s falling short?
  • If the existing training is not effective, how can I know what changes are needed to make it better?
  • How can I know if specific modules, such as upselling products, are working?

Read part two of this series to learn how to best align your company’s business strategy with talent and learning, and why analytics is essential in demonstrating the impact of L&D on business goals. 

To learn more about measuring the success of your learning programs, download our free eBook, The ROI of Online Training.

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