How to Evaluate Learning Impact
“What gets measured, gets managed.” - Peter Drucker
When tasked with developing elaborate learning programs at work that aim to improve employees’ knowledge, skills, and capabilities, it’s important to take a moment and put a framework in place for evaluating how effective these interventions would be and what their impact on the organization ultimately would be.
Why is learning evaluation important?
We all want to know if what we do matters. And the same is true for L&D as a profession. One way to find this out is to evaluate learning across the organization.
Evaluation is concerned with the total worth or value of L&D in monetary and non-monetary terms. So, really, there are three key elements here: worth or value, monetary and non-monetary.
What are the main challenges in learning evaluation?
The biggest challenge in learning evaluation is isolating all the different factors that may affect someone’s performance and finding a direct correlation between learning and performance improvement. For example, if I speak Spanish fluently, is it because of my instructor, the curriculum, or because I lived in Spain for a year? This difficulty is the reason why sometimes learning evaluation can be neglected.
And if you don’t believe me, the latest research from the CIPD proves that. 70% of the interviewed L&D practitioners say they evaluate the impact of their initiatives in some way. Most commonly – by learner satisfaction. Only 12% are evaluating the wider impact on the business or society. And yeah, I agree – learning evaluation is complicated. But it is so worth it.
What are the benefits of learning evaluation?
Satisfy organizational needs
Justify L&D budgets
Improve learning and development programs
Enhance transfer of learning
Make data-driven decisions on which learning programs to enhance and which to eliminate
Strengthen relationships with all stakeholders
Set priorities for the L&D department
Drive resource optimization and allocation
Five popular evaluation methods
Surveys and questionnaires
The quickest way to measure learner satisfaction with a learning event is to give them a survey or an online questionnaire to fill in. You can ask learners about the usefulness of the content, the practicality of the materials, the effectiveness of the learning methods used, the efficiency of the facilitator, and even how comfortable the environment was.
What better way to find out how the learners feel and how their behavior has changed than to ask them directly? This is where interviews come in. You can do a 1-on-1 interview with a participant in a learning program, their line manager, and peer and even gather a focus group.
Assignments and projects
One of the best ways to test how skills are being applied back on the job is to observe how learners apply them in real-life situations. This is where assignments and projects come in. Learners get an opportunity to work together and put to use everything they know.
If you want to know what impact learning has had on the learner’s performance, look no further than their performance records. Things to watch out for here are production output, sales, operating costs, customer satisfaction, quality standards, etc.
One indication of the positive impact of learning is increased engagement among employees. And the best place to check the engagements levels is the engagement survey reports. If you want to see what impact learning has had on a particular group in the long term, you can also gather some information from the engagement reports.
Learning evaluation process
If you want a quick and easy process to follow to evaluate the learning impact in your organization, take a look at this 4-step process with some additional prompting questions to help in each step:
Step 1: Evaluation planning
What will be measured?
Who to involve?
What are the success criteria?
What resources are needed?
When will the evaluation take place? How long will it take?
Step 2: Collect the information
What data will you collect?
Where can you collect it from? Who can give it to you?
Baseline: what is the current state to which you want to compare your findings?
Step 3: Analyse findings
What is the current state?
What are the desired outcomes?
What changes have taken place that aided long-term change in learners?
What changes have taken place that hindered long-term change in learners?
Step 4: Actions to improve
What changes need to happen?
What actions will be taken by the L&D team?
What actions will be taken by other stakeholders?
What will happen if no actions are taken?
Next time you are given the task to design a learning intervention, stop and think about how you’re going to evaluate it eventually (aka start with the end in mind). We hope this article has given you the foundation to step on. Next, check out more of our articles on the topic of evaluation, or dive into one of our online courses.