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The Pressure Continues to Rise: Measuring the Business Impact of Learning in 2019

We’re now in the third year of our annual measuring the business impact of learning survey and this year’s results show there’s no letting up in the pressure to measure. Find out more in this blog from Piers Lea, Chief Strategy Officer at LEO Learning.

With a total sample size of almost 1,000, we now have a compelling body of evidence on how L&D is tackling the learning measurement challenge—and this year’s results paint an interesting but varied picture of progress.

What Are the Headlines?

1) There’s No Letting up in the Pressure to Measure

The key takeaway from this year’s results is that the pressure to measure continues to rise, with almost 70% of respondents now stating they feel pressure from leadership to measure learning’s impact.

This figure has steadily been rising over the last three years, with a 38% increase in those who ‘strongly’ agree they feel pressure to measure this year.

2) Intentions and Beliefs Are High

An overwhelming 96% of respondents now agree or strongly agree that they want to measure learning’s impact. Additionally, over the last three years, there’s been a 59% increase in the number of respondents who strongly agree it’s possible to demonstrate the business impact of learning.

3) Learning Evaluation Methods Paint a Mixed Picture

With pressure from stakeholders, high confidence and strong intentions, we might expect to see a shift in the way L&D teams are now measuring their learning. But overall it’s still a mixed picture: 50% of respondents are reporting they’re either not evaluated or relying on learner satisfaction and content utilization to evaluate learning. However, the remaining 50% do seem to be moving to measures that will better demonstrate the business impact of learning, such as job performance and Return on Investment.

4) L&D Teams Say They Need Help Getting Started

We saw an increase in those who say they ‘don’t know how to get started’ when it comes to learning measurement. Perhaps as pressure to measure the business impact of learning rises, a lack of understanding becomes a more pressing concern.

How Can L&D Move Forward?

In the three years since we launched the survey with Watershed, it’s clear that the pressure to measure learning’s impact isn’t going away—in fact, it’s steadily growing. Thankfully at the same time, we have seen increased commitment, enthusiasm and the launch of many innovative measurement projects.

At LEO Learning, we’ve long advocated a ‘big data’ approach to measuring the business impact of learning, but implementing such a strategy doesn’t come without its challenges.

We’ve worked with many global organizations to help them get started on learning measurement, and we find the barriers are often around:

Team Capabilities and Skill sets: Measuring the business impact of learning requires L&D teams to become comfortable with using and analyzing data. These are skills that aren’t traditionally present in many teams.

Data Collection Strategies: Understanding how to collect quality data that will provide the vital connection between learning and business performance can be difficult. It requires a research phase where L&D teams are empowered to reach out to the wider business to have conversations that will unlock data, and then developing a data collection strategy that can be piloted and refined before large scale rollout.

Technology: Delivering successful data-driven learning means building a connected ecosystem of all the tools and platforms used to deliver learning. Additionally, a Learning Record Store (LRS) or other similar technology, is required to collect all your learning data in a central place.

But these are all now solvable problems. In just a short space of time, we’ve helped businesses make significant progress in upskilling staff, defining data collection strategies and connecting learning technologies using xAPI—as well as executing other forms of integration.

Those that have made progress with measuring the business impact of learning are now deriving significant competitive advantage and are beginning to be able to drive investment in learning based on data in exciting ways.

Ultimately, It’s a case of making the business case for investment into developing the skills and technological infrastructure to make measuring the business impact of learning achievable. This year’s results clearly show that the pressure to measure isn’t going away, so securing the investment for this effort must be a priority.

The full results along with extended commentary from LEO Learning’s Chief Strategy Officer, Piers Lea, are available now.

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