How to Know If Your Learning Program Is Working

February 27, 2024 | Activate Learning | 6 min read

If you are in management, chances are you’ve heard of Peter Drucker.

Considered the father of modern management theory, Drucker emphasized the importance of people within organizations. He recognized that employees are not just resources to be managed but valuable assets that drive organizational success.

Many leaders credit Drucker with the corporate catchphrase, “People are our most valuable assets.”

He believed that investing in people through training, development, and empowerment is essential for achieving sustainable growth and competitive advantage. In response to his work, organizations around the world implemented learning and development programs to enhance the skills, knowledge, and abilities of employees to align with organizational goals and objectives.

And to his credit (and yours if you’ve already implemented an L&D program at your own organization), learning and development programs have seen phenomenal results, including:

  • Skill enhancement: 54% of companies globally are struggling to find skilled workers – the highest in a decade. In the United States, this figure is 69 percent. Learning programs improve employees’ skills and competencies, ensuring they have the capabilities required to perform their roles effectively. This includes both technical skills related to job tasks and power skills such as communication, leadership, and teamwork.
  • Career advancement: Provides opportunities for employees to acquire new skills and knowledge that can help them advance in their careers within the organization. This might include leadership training, management development programs, or technical certification courses.
  • Employee engagement and retention: Demonstrates a commitment to the growth and well-being of employees, which can lead to higher levels of engagement, job satisfaction, and retention. Employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their professional growth and offers opportunities for advancement.
  • Adaptation to change: 87% of workers said that they believe they will need to develop new skills throughout their working lives to keep up with the changes in the workplace. Learning programs keep employees up to date on industry trends, technological advancements, and changes in the business landscape to adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities.
  • Innovation and creativity: Fosters a culture of innovation and creativity within the organization by encouraging employees to explore new ideas, experiment with different approaches, and think critically about solving problems.
  • Succession planning and talent management: Identifies and grooms future leaders from within the company, ensuring that your organization has a strong pipeline of skilled and capable leaders to fill key roles as needed.

What Does Success Look Like?

While the benefits of establishing a learning and development program within your organization are clear, L&D managers often wonder what success looks like. How can you tell that your learning program is working as you intended?

Sometimes, it’s easy to see what’s working. Here are some anecdotes:

But other times, L&D managers might need to look deeper to assess whether your corporate learning program is achieving its intended outcomes and making a positive impact on your organization. Here is what this might look like from beginning to end:

Define clear objectives. Ensure that your learning program has specific, measurable goals aligned with your organization’s overall objectives. These could be improving employee performance, increasing productivity, reducing turnover, etc.

Evaluate participant engagement. Measure the level of participation and engagement in the learning activities. This can include tracking attendance, completion rates of courses/modules, and participation in discussions or interactive elements.

Assess knowledge retention. Conduct assessments or quizzes before and after training to measure how much knowledge employees have retained. This helps determine if the learning material is effectively communicated and understood.

Analyze performance metrics. Look at key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to the learning objectives. For example, if the goal is to improve sales, monitor sales numbers before and after the training to see if there’s a positive impact.

Seek feedback. Gather feedback from participants through surveys or interviews to understand their perceptions of the program. Ask about the relevance of the content, the effectiveness of the delivery methods, and suggestions for improvement.

Monitor application of learning. Observe whether employees are applying the knowledge and skills gained from the program in their daily work. This could involve tracking changes in behavior, performance improvements, or successful implementation of new processes or techniques.

See how Equinix built a successful workplace safety program by encouraging employees to learn in the flow of work.

Compare results to benchmarks. Compare the outcomes of your learning program to predefined benchmarks or industry standards to determine its effectiveness relative to expectations. Benchmarks truly depend on your specific industry’s needs, but might include:

  • Employee engagement: Measure the level of employee engagement with the learning and development programs. This can be assessed through surveys, feedback forms, or participation rates.
  • Skill acquisition and development: Track the improvement of specific skills or competencies among employees before and after participating in your learning programs. This can be done through pre- and post-training assessments or skill-based evaluations.
  • Training completion rates: Monitor the percentage of employees who complete the training programs within a given timeframe. Low completion rates may indicate issues with program effectiveness or engagement.
  • Knowledge retention: Assess the extent to which employees retain and apply the knowledge gained from the training programs over time. This can be measured through follow-up assessments, on-the-job performance evaluations, or surveys.
  • Performance improvement: Measure the impact of learning and development programs on key performance indicators (KPIs) such as productivity, sales figures, customer satisfaction, or quality metrics. Compare the performance of employees who have undergone training with those who have not.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): Calculate the ROI of learning and development initiatives by comparing the costs associated with the programs to the measurable benefits, such as increased productivity, reduced turnover, or improved performance.
  • Employee satisfaction and feedback: Gather feedback from employees about their overall satisfaction with the learning and development programs, as well as specific aspects like content relevance, delivery methods, and instructor effectiveness.
  • Learning program effectiveness: Evaluate the effectiveness of learning materials, delivery methods, and instructional design by analyzing completion rates, assessment scores, and feedback from participants.
  • Alignment with organizational goals: Assess the extent to which learning and development programs align with your organization’s strategic objectives and contribute to achieving them. This can be measured through surveys, interviews, or performance evaluations.

Iterate and improve. Use the data you’ve collected to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments accordingly. Continuous evaluation and refinement are essential for ensuring long-term effectiveness.

By following these steps, you can assess whether your corporate learning program is achieving its intended outcomes and making a positive impact on your organization.

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