Learning Metrics to Live By

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A company’s strategy around learning is arguably one of the most significant items on the learning/HR list of priorities.  If it’s not, it should be.  68% of employees say training and development is the company’s most important policy. That’s according to ClearCompany.  More and more employees place a premium on their skills and want to continue strengthening the ones they already have and gaining new ones.  Companies who nurture that growth gain a competitive advantage.

They also gain financially.  24% higher profit margins can be the result of companies who invest in learning according to the Huffington Post.

So, how do learning practitioners in HR focus their learning efforts on success?  The simple answer is data.  To be more specific:  metrics. 

Learning Metrics

Output and Outcomes

There was a time when the only metrics requested from learning and development officials were the number of people taking part in the training and the cost involved.  In other words:  basic effectiveness and efficiency.

As with everything, however, learning and development has evolved.  It’s now a business critical change agent.  It’s not enough, though, to measure inputs, the number of courses, and attendance.  Learning and development must look at the output and outcomes.  When both pieces are in concert, HR professionals should see an increase in quality around the metrics gathered.

Metrics to Watch

There are a handful of metrics derived for HR and learning professionals to analyze.

  1. Completion rates – This metric is important because it indicates the level of learner engagement, motivation and participation. Low completion rates indicate employees aren’t investing in the material or how it relates to their jobs.  High completion rates show employees are invested.
  2. Performance and Progress – This particular metric is split into two categories: the individual and the group.  For the individual, metrics will give you a detailed look at how the employee is doing with the learning.  For the group, the metric will include the details around specific trends.  For instance, how the group is progressing through the material.  Both individual metrics and group metrics allow for the tracking of course effectiveness and engagement.
  3. Satisfaction and approval – This metric gives HR professionals some indication of how the employee or employees feel about the content. This is a powerful metric because it allows HR or learning managers to adjust current content or, if need be, create better content based on the needs of the employee.
  4. Instructor and manager ratings – This metric may not always be applicable as, in some cases, material is not presented by an instructor or manager but through a technology interface of some sort. If that is not the case, this will indicate how learners feel about the instructor or manager.  It can also be directly linked to the reason an employee or group of employees are not learning at the level expected.
  5. Competency and proficiency – Competency and proficiency metrics show HR professionals if employees have the knowledge and skills to achieve a desired outcome. If not, this metric allows for learning managers to adjust the material accordingly.  It also allows from some insight into an employee or group’s currently proficiency.


Aligning Learning with the Business

“Learning doesn’t drive the corporate strategy, it aligns with the strategy,” Martha Soehren said.  Soehren is the Chief Talent Development Officer and Senior Vice President with Comcast.

For that to be the case, learning and HR professionals must analyze the implementation of current learning programs and business goals to produce an aligned strategy that predicts learning output and outcomes.

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Soehren explains Comcast achieves this through the National Executive Learning Council.  The council is made up of members of the C-suite and some other senior leaders.

“When we meet, this body ensures alignment between the business and learning, sets new expectations and strategy, ensuring learning priorities are in alignment with both the business imperatives in the pipe line as well as key performance indicator (KPI) data across the business that is monitored on a minute-to-minute basis, in many cases,” Soehren said.

One of the changes made after the creation of the council was to mandate all front-line leaders get 24-hours of instructor-led training.  Why?

“We want supervisors to spend the majority of their time coaching their team members. We want them in the field, in the homes, and in the call centers assisting, giving feedback, and driving a better customer experience with their team members,” Soehren explained.

Avoiding Scrap Learning

Having said all of that, however, everyone learns differently.  That in itself is a challenge.  Introducing learners to information with the same methodology, for instance a classroom setting, you are inevitably going to teach some learners information they will use and other information that will not be used.

This is commonly referred to as scrap learning.  That’s learning that has happened but is/was not applied on the job.

The way to cut down on this and increase productivity is to create learning and development plans for employees on an individual basis.

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First, start with figuring out what skill gaps exist.  No two employees will be the same, so that means a blanket approach will not work.  The best way to figure out the best way for employees to learn is simply ask them either through one-on-one conversations or an office survey.  This will help determine what kill gaps exist as part of the employee team.

Secondly, focus on the outcomes.  What type of end result do you expect and/or need from your employees?  This will ensure that all training programs for employees are working toward that end goal.

Thirdly, HR professionals should focus on the communication piece of the strategy.  This will help employees understand the benefit of learning before it begins.

Finally, map out the learning path for each employee.  This path details the specific training and development programs that need to be completed. This could include mentoring and on-the-job assignments, or it could be online employee training that makes learning accessible anytime, anywhere.


Data provides invaluable insight into the future learning opportunities of a company’s workforce.  Now, more than ever before, HR professionals have a real opportunity to do what all leaders and C-suite members want to do:  predict the future.  By leveraging and understanding the data generated by learning programs, HR professionals can better evaluate the content and their effectiveness.  It can lead to better outcomes both developmentally for the employee and financially for the employer.


NEXT:  Future-Proofing Employee Skills


Photo courtesy:  Pexels