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3 Key Steps In Defining Impact In Learning and Development

Organizations now rely more heavily than ever on their Learning and Development departments to upskill the workforce and prepare them for the future of work. The L&D function, however, has been spread thin as budgets are cut, business demands get more challenging, and the need to demonstrate the ROI of their programs becomes more pressing.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought numerous changes to the professional world. If we look at the impact of Covid-19 on L&D, we see how employee development departments have seen their functions accelerated as learning played a major role in helping employees transition to remote work and adapt to new ways of working. Budgets are under pressure, per-learner allowances change, and defining and demonstrating the impact of training initiatives has become a business imperative for L&D teams.

In this article, we introduce the essential steps your L&D team should take to define the impact of training programs and frame wins effectively. This post is based on the panel discussion held by a group of four L&D Specialists at Thomson Reuters, Wise, Forter, and Wayhome, and Talaera’s People & Culture Manager, Simon Kennell. You can watch the session on-demand here.

1. Communicate the Value of Your Training Initiative to Senior Management

Communicate the value of your training program

To get the green light from leadership to implement a training initiative, L&D teams need to communicate the value of the program effectively. Craft compelling messages and approaches to convince your executive team about your training programs by including these key points in your message.

Strategically align training to business objectives

For your training program to be considered valuable and relevant by your executive team, it needs to contribute to the company's mission. Communicate the value of your training programs to senior management and demonstrate why it is important, what company goals it is going to help achieve, and how.

Show how your initiative contributes to the organizational strategy and bottom line and explain how your suggested activities are directly linked to those corporate objectives. 

Present a proposal that speaks the language of business

You want your training proposal to sound credible to senior management. For that, it needs to address real business challenges. Clearly state the real problem you are trying to solve and frame it around how it will drive growth, productivity, and profitability.

“Grown-ups like numbers.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Help executives recognize the value of the program by speaking in “hard numbers”. Show how much you’ve saved the company by reporting the direct results of similar programs. Project the specific benefits that the new program will bring. When top leadership understands how your training initiative will contribute to their business results, training becomes essential (and not a nice to have any longer).

Make it easy for top leadership

Most C-Suite executives have limited time to look into training initiatives. Your goal is to prepare and present a clear and concise proposal that addresses all their potential concerns. Show that your initiative has been well-researched but only show them the specifics that they need to know. 

Start with up-to-date data directly linked to business goals and KPIs and include the projected ROI. Present a high-level overview of the training content, including delivery methods. Show results from employee surveys and similar, successful programs. Communicate the required resources and overall costs. Present a timeline that includes delivery, testing and assessing, and ROI measuring details. 

2. Get the Buy-in from Participants


Once you get top management’s approval to roll out a training program, you need to “sell it” to the employees. The first step is to know your end goal. Once you know what problem you need to solve, involve employees in the whole process as early on as possible. This will result in higher rates of engagement and buy-in from participants in your L&D initiatives. 

Generate a sense of ownership through co-creation

Sharing learning ownership with your employees tells them that you trust them to do the right thing. create a knowledge-sharing culture in which each learner shares responsibility for driving training. Focus on what challenge you are trying to solve and involve employees in the solution design. Your learners are key stakeholders and sharing the ownership of the project with them will enhance buy-in. 

Ask for their input. Allow them to review training content and implement their feedback to build robust programs. Invite stakeholders to run-throughs. Create feedback loops and use surveys. Ownership makes learners feel like an essential part of the team. It makes them feel like an essential part of the team and the process and it encourages them to strive for even more knowledge.

Create learner-centric solutions

Make it about them. Identify your target audience and conduct a learner needs analysis. Find out what is most relevant to learners and use this data to design personalized learning experiences.

Move from a theoretical approach to a fundamentally practical program. Provide learning experiences that are hands-on and interactive. Your training should be engaging and applicable to their day-to-day work. Make courses relevant for the learners and get creative when it comes to tools and resources.

Cater to different learning preferences and levels. Allow for flexibility when you create assessments that are appropriate for each learner and let them work at their own pace. Create a space for failing & learning. Ideally, participants should also be able to explore topics if they need more clarification or want to get deeper into a topic. 

Think like a marketer

Learners are key stakeholders in training programs. As L&D professionals, we take participants into consideration when it comes to the design of the training but often forget about them when it comes to buy-in. As a consequence, learners may feel skeptical about the benefits of the training. 

Your job is to show them why the training is taking place and what’s in it for them. Much like you had to speak the language of business to communicate with senior management, to get the buy-in from participants, you need to give them a reason to invest their time. Show them how the training is applicable to their job and how it will help them get better results. 

Put the same level of energy and consideration into the marketing as you did the product itself. Build excitement and engagement by sending email invites, sharing details in company newsletters and Slack channels, distributing posters and brochures, organizing pre- and post-course quizzes and videos, and asking for other participants for testimonials and reviews.

Enlist Learning Advocates

Look for training champions within your organization. These are people who truly believe in training and the program you are presenting. They communicate their support and provide credibility. The more diverse your champions are, the more people you will reach –include senior leaders and subordinates of different genders and backgrounds. 

Your learning advocates help promote a learning culture. They help you create an organizational environment where learning becomes more meaningful and is seen to have more impact.

3. Measure And Share the Impact of Your Training Program


Learning metrics are key. They help organizations measure the effectiveness of their training programs. Most L&D departments track data such as employee satisfaction, knowledge retention, completion rates, and engagement. 

Common metrics used to track training success:

  • Completion rates ✅
  • Engagement 💪🏼
  • Self-reported satisfaction 😍
  • Team/organization/business metrics 📈
  • Time saved / productivity increased ⏱ 
  • ROI 💸
  • Employee retention🦸🏻‍♀️ 🦸🏾

Make sure you look at the intended impact or solution of your training program and ensure that your metrics track those. Prioritize learners’ readiness to apply what they learned and the relevance of the contents to their day-to-day role. 

Choose the right training evaluation metrics

Measurement of training programs starts with understanding what you need to measure and then figuring out how to measure what you are trying to solve. It may sound simple, but it is important to stay focused on the results we are striving for. For example, if your goal is to increase safety in the warehouse, you should probably measure to what extent your warehouse workers are implementing safety procedures. A survey on how fun and entertaining they found the program might not make sense in this scenario. So there goes your first question, are you measuring what you’re trying to solve?

The second question is to measure the impact on business. Tying it back to the first step –communicating the value of a training initiative to senior management–, you need to keep your credibility by showing how your training program has helped not only employees individually, but also the business bottom line. 

Whenever possible, draw correlations between your training programs and productivity/benefits outcomes following the implementation. Show how your training initiative yielded an increase in productivity/sales or helped cut costs.

Popular training evaluation models:

  • Kirkpatrick Model: It assesses both formal and informal training methods and rates them against four levels of criteria: reaction, learning, behavior, and results.
  • Kaufman's Five Levels of Learning Evaluation: It is very similar to the Kirkpatrick Model, but includes a fifth level that looks at societal impacts. It also divides the levels into micro, macro, and mega terms.
  • Philips ROI: A 5-level methodology and process for L&D and HR teams to tie the costs of training programs with their actual results. The levels are reaction (learner satisfaction), learning (knowledge transferred to learners), behavior (learners' behavior change post-training), results (measurable impact on performance), and ROI (return on training investment).
  • Brinkerhoff Success Case Model: It involves identifying the most and least successful cases within your learning program and studying them in detail to better understand what factors enhance or undermine impact.
  • Anderson Model of Learning Evaluation: It focuses on the evaluation of learning strategy, rather than individual programs.

Prove Learning ROI

In the current business climate, showing that your training program is helping employees learn new skills is not enough. You need to prove that it’s making a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line. You need to justify the money spent on L&D by providing ROI on your training programs. 

Measurement will continue to take a front seat in communicating the importance of training to core business objectives. However, putting a dollar amount on a program whose effects are manifold and seemingly unquantifiable is a real struggle for L&D departments.

There are training evaluation models that can help you define success and establish a framework to measure the success of your learning strategy, like the ones we presented above. Choose one and work backward –think about the ideal results of the evaluation and focus on them throughout the implementation and delivery. Then, measure results against those benchmarks. When you think about the top levels of most training evaluation models (impact, results), think about the effects of your training program on the individuals as well as on the organization. Take a holistic approach and consider the changes in behavior, the impact of those behavioral changes, the sales numbers, employee retention rates, or production levels. 

Finally, calculate your ROI by looking at the hard numbers of those results. Are you able to connect your training program with a % increase in average production levels or sales numbers? Calculate the actual value over the next year and the cost to run the training. Consider the costs of developing the resources, the time spent, and the implementation costs. Then, use a simple ROI equation:

ROI = {[$ benefit of training - $ cost of training] / $ cost of training } x 100

If your total benefit was $100,000 and your total cost of training was $25,000, your ROI = {[100,000 - 25,000] / 25,000 } x 100 = 300%.

Continue reading: What's The ROI Of English Language Training For Your Employees?


Communicating the value of your training initiative to senior management and getting the buy-in from participants ar critical steps when defining impact and framing wins. Align training goals with business objectives and involve participants as early on as possible and give learners a sense of ownership. 

Offer learner-centric solutions and think like a marketer to get participants excited.  Choose the training evaluation model that best fits your needs. Measure outcomes consistently and make the training ROI visible and link learning and performance with organizational impact.

Framing Wins in L&D Recording

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