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How to Identify the Right Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs

October 21, 2020 | By Soma Bhaduri


It’s crucial to identify the appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your Learning and Development (L&D) programs. This ensures the creation of training that aligns with core strategies and tactics, driving business performance and success.

What Are Training KPIs?

Training Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics utilized to assess the effectiveness and impact of learning and development programs. These indicators are vital as they provide quantifiable data to assess whether training objectives are being met and how they align with overall business goals. By measuring factors such as knowledge retention, skill improvement, and behavioral changes, KPIs help organizations identify the strengths and weaknesses of their training programs. This data-driven approach enables continuous improvement, ensuring that training investments yield the desired outcomes in terms of employee performance and business growth. Properly chosen KPIs can guide strategic decisions, optimize training efforts, and ultimately contribute to the organization’s success.

Benefits of Selecting the Right KPIs for Training Programs

  • Alignment with Business Goals:

    Selecting the right KPIs ensures that training is closely aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives, leading to more impactful learning outcomes.

  • Improved Training Effectiveness:

    Proper KPIs help in assessing the effectiveness of training programs, guiding enhancements to maximize learning and development.

  • Enhanced Decision Making:

    Accurate KPIs provide valuable insights for decision-makers, enabling more informed choices about training strategies and investments.

  • Identification of Skill Gaps:

    Right KPIs help in pinpointing areas where learners need improvement, allowing for more focused and relevant training content.

  • Justification of Training Investments:

    By demonstrating tangible outcomes, the right KPIs justify the investments made in training programs, showcasing their value to the business.

  • Increased Employee Performance and Satisfaction:

    Effective training, guided by the right KPIs, leads to improved employee performance, higher job satisfaction, and better overall productivity.

What Criteria Should You Use to Choose the Right Training KPIs?

Accurate KPI selection can guarantee that Learning and Development programs actively support and drive essential enterprise strategy and tactics. L&D metrics track progress on specific measures – learner reaction to a course, number of people trained, knowledge assessment scores, or hours utilized in an LMS. However, this is not enough and combining traditional L&D metrics with Business metrics should form the basis for KPIs that inform and identify a Learning and Development program’s success.

Consider an insurance company implementing training to enhance the accuracy of estimates. The training or L&D metrics would indicate the number of employees who complete the training, their reaction, and knowledge assessment scores. While those numbers are important, a KPI would instead calculate the difference in estimate accuracy before and after the training.

How Does Identifying the Right Training KPIs Help L&D Teams Achieve Their Training Goals?

Successful Learning and Development programs align to both employee performance targets as well as corporate strategy and tactics. A Learning and Development program may seem effective based on metrics like utilization or reaction scores, but only legitimate KPIs identify actionable results. Inherent in this equation is the need to align employee performance targets with corporate strategy. This requires effective collaboration between the L&D team and business stakeholders.

For example, a customer service department may track and base performance reviews on call handle times, aiming for minimal customer interaction and short conversations. And yet, the corporate strategy depends on customer service scores, which may be negatively affected by short call times.

Aligning employee performance targets with the corporate strategy initiates a straightforward (albeit challenging) process of pinpointing crucial KPIs. For example, does the sales team value call volume or the number of sales? Whichever KPI is more relevant, it must be identified and should be used to measure the impact of the training solution for the sales team.

Which Strategies Can Assist You in Identifying the Appropriate Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs?

Some KPIs are Leading indicators and some are Lagging indicators. Early versions of Learning and Development programs can use Leading KPIs to iterate and improve knowledge or application evaluations. Lagging KPIs, often measured weeks after the training, should also inform iterations. These indicators should include business results like increased sales or enhanced customer satisfaction.

The list below can be used to identify the right KPIs for your training programs:

  1. Confirm that the training can solve business problems:
    Collaborate with business leaders to identify performance gaps and supply information needed to identify KPIs that will drive design and evaluation.
  2. Align the L&D programs with the corporate strategy:
    Articulating the correlation of a solution’s goals with the corporate strategy will drive effective KPI identification. Use artifacts like design documents and program charters to document the correlation.
  3. Leverage Training Needs Analysis (TNA):
    This phase should also be used to quantify the L&D metrics as well as Business metrics and KPIs so that training effectiveness and its impact on business can be measured.
  4. Move beyond hours of training and head counts:
    For too long, corporate training teams have conditioned business leaders to expect those numbers, losing credibility in the process. Legitimate KPIs map to results business leaders truly care about (for example, profitability, satisfaction, and engagement).
  5. Ensure that training KPIs are measurable:
    Subjective indicators, while potentially useful as anecdotal evidence, are usually weak indicators of training success or failure.
  6. Validate if the data is accessible by the training team:
    If the numbers used to calculate the KPIs are locked in an inaccessible database, find other KPIs.

What Common Mistakes Should You Avoid While Selecting Training KPIs for Your Learning and Development Programs?

When determining training KPIs for your Learning and Development programs:

  1. Identify the KPIs before developing training solutions: This helps drive effective design and development. KPIs determined after the training design or development are unreliable at best, and at worst may indicate total failure.
  2. Avoid subjective results: Business leaders engage with hard numbers. Smile sheets and anecdotal comments may inform internal modifications, but they should not be included as KPIs.
  3. Ensure that the data used in the KPIs are available and reliable: Avoid the problem of garbage in, garbage out.
  4. Don’t ignore negative results: Failure is always an option. Honest reporting of negative KPIs ensures that future iterations of Learning and Development programs will be as effective as possible.
  5. Wait long enough to measure Lagging training KPIs: Often, KPIs are meaningless until a few weeks have passed and you can see the impact/otherwise.

Examples of KPIs in Training

Effectively gauging the success and impact of training programs hinges on the critical task of carefully choosing the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). KPIs serve as measurable values that give insights into the effectiveness of a training program. They help in understanding how well the training is meeting its objectives, influencing decisions on future training strategies, and ensuring alignment with the organization’s overall goals. Below are some examples of common KPIs used in training:

  1. Completion Rates: Measures the percentage of employees who complete training courses.
  2. Assessment Scores: Evaluates the understanding and retention of training material through test scores.
  3. Time to Proficiency: Tracks how quickly employees become proficient in new skills post-training.
  4. Learner Engagement: Assesses participant engagement and interaction during training sessions.
  5. Post-Training Evaluation: Gathers feedback from trainees to evaluate training effectiveness.
  6. Application Rate: Measures how well employees apply learned skills in their job roles.
  7. Return on Investment (ROI): Calculates the financial return on training investments compared to the cost.
  8. Employee Performance Metrics: Evaluates changes in job performance post-training.

Identifying the correct KPIs are important on both the front-end, when designing Learning and Development programs, as well as the back-end, when evaluating their effectiveness. The right KPIs will help you drive business results and ensure alignment with key corporate strategies and initiatives.

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