Metrics for Learning Success

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20% of training translates into time wasted according to a LinkedIn Study. That’s the percentage of learners who never apply their training to their job. That same study says 67% of learners apply the lessons learned, but in the end, revert to previous habits. Another study found 45% of training content is never applied.

For HR professionals designing or monitoring the Return on Investment of training programs, those are disturbing statistics, especially when you consider the decrease in productivity this causes and the cost of wasted money.

So, how do you mitigate or address the issue? Improve the delivery of learning program content, and it all starts with the metrics.

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. However, learning and development has evolved into 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.

“We’re in the process of trying to become a learning organization, and to become a learning organization you have to be nimble. You have to have a culture of leaders as teachers. You have to have a culture of recognizing those things that contribute, and actually those things what lead to success,” Brad Samargya said. Samargya is the Chief Learning Officer for mobile phone maker Ericsson.

All of the descriptions Samargya is using refer back to the content, specifically how it is delivered and is it of substance. When both pieces are in concert, HR professionals should see an increase in quality around the metrics gathered.

First, let’s focus on delivery.

Samantha Hammock is the Chief Learning Officer for American Express. Her company employs a learning management system as part of their learning process. Hammock says measurement is the company’s biggest need.

“If we’re going to mandate training, we had better be robust in tracking and reporting. Is the experience getting better, is the knowledge increasing. We have put it thru workforce analytics to slice and dice some of those metrics,” Hammock said.

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Of course, learning management systems are not the only way to deliver learning.

None of those work without one specific ingredient, however: the content. Providing relevant content is key to a good learning strategy, good metrics, and to ensure your learners are engaged and continue to come back for more.

The modern employee is distracted, overwhelmed and has little time to spare. Catering content to their needs is not only important – it’s critical.

The content presented to employees must be applicable and timely to help them with their daily duties, expand their mind, and provide them with quick takeaways that can immediately be applied.

Metrics to Watch

There are a handful of metrics derived for HR 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. The 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.


All of the metrics above lead to the measuring of success, but it does not account for another critical piece of the puzzle: measuring failure. Failure, in its on way, can be a great teacher. For the HR professional, the failure of a learner creates insight into what they’re thinking and how they’re approaching learning.

For more information

Metrics can be a powerful tool in directing a company’s learning program. The HR Exchange Network has developed a report on the subject. Using metrics to improve your learning programs assists the HR professional in understanding the metrics behind their learning programs and how that information can direct changes and strengthen to reality of turning learning into financial growth for the company.

Download: Using metrics to improve your learning programs.


Mason Stevenson
HR Exchange Network