Improve Your Training and Development by Understanding These KPIs

Imagine that your boss comes into your office five minutes from now. They ask you for evidence that learning and development are worth the investment.

What would you say? Could you provide that evidence? Or would you splutter and trip over your words trying to defend your work?

If you can’t prove that your learning and development programs are improving your company, it’s time for a change.

The first thing to do is establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for training and development. These indicators tell you how well your training program is working and show executives and boards that your work is worth investing in.

While there are many training and development KPIs you might track, they broadly fall into two different groups.

Training-and-Development-Specific KPIs

These performance indicators are linked specifically to the training program itself. They measure how well you’re running the program and whether people are engaging with it.

They don’t measure any specific business impact. We’ll get to those in the next section.

Let’s start with some very basic KPIs:

Attendance

This is a simple KPI for training managers. You’re probably already tracking it, even if you haven’t thought of it as a performance indicator.

To get a good picture of attendance, measure

  • signups for all trainings;
  • attendees in each training course;
  • attendees in each training session; and
  • attendance of courses and sessions for each participant.

A learning management system makes it easier to collect this information, but you could also manage it with a spreadsheet or your current software.

This is a good metric to measure over time. Is attendance dropping off as a course goes on? Learners might not feel like they’re getting long-term value out of the course. Are you not getting as many signups as you’d like? It might be time to change how you market the program to employees.

And if you’re not happy with attendance overall, it’s time to survey your employees to find out why they’re not taking advantage of your program.

Completion Rate

Are your employees actually finishing the trainings that they sign up for? Completion rate will tell you. It’s only applicable to trainings with more than one session.

If you’re getting low completion rates, you probably have a communication issue. If employees don’t get what they expected from a course, they’ll stop attending.

Make sure to be set clear expectations on what employees will get out of a training. What will the sessions be like? Which skills will they learn? How will the training impact their daily jobs?

Clarifying the answers to these questions will be a big help to employees. And you’ll probably see your completion rates go up, too.

Time to Completion

This is a training efficiency KPI. Just because you have a great completion rate doesn’t mean that you’re training employees efficiently.

How long does it take the average learner to go from signing up for a course to completing it? This only applies to self-paced learning. That might mean an online course or a training program with multiple options for attendance dates.

If it takes learners a long time to complete learning tracks, do some research to find out why. Maybe they’re not getting a lot of value from the training, so they put it off.

Or it’s not a priority in their department. They may feel pressured to not take time away from their jobs to complete trainings.

There could be any number of reasons why learners are progressing through courses slowly. And the causes each require different tactics to deal with them.

It might be as simple as a weekly email reminder to sign into your LMS and complete a training session. Or it might require a shift in the focus of your training. It all depends on your learners.

Test Results

Evaluation is an important part of any training program. And test results are an important KPI for training coordinators.

If your learners are scoring well on their assessments, they’re learning from your trainings. (Though whether that knowledge has an impact on their day-to-day job is a different question; we’ll talk about that shortly.)

If you’re confident in your assessments, this is a straightforward training and development KPI. Just look at the average scores of your participants. If you want to get more detailed, you can break them down by learning track, instructor, time to completion, and any other factor that might affect the efficacy of the training.

If the fail rate is higher than you expected, the fix is usually simple: increase the quality of your training.

Making that happen isn’t necessarily easy, but it does provide you with a straightforward goal.

Learner Satisfaction

Do your employees enjoy your training programs? You might not think it matters much if they’re showing improvement on other development KPIs. But employees are more likely to show up and pay attention in trainings that they’re satisfied with.

Of course, you need to do more than just collect satisfaction scores in your post-training surveys. You need to find out why learners feel the way they do.

That might mean allowing free-form answers to provide details on what they liked or didn’t like. Or it could mean using a longer survey that covers specific satisfaction-related questions.

Business-Related KPIs

The KPIs above tell you how effectively your training program imparts knowledge. But what good is that knowledge if it isn’t having larger effects on your business?

These measures will help you connect your training to business outcomes. That’s where you can prove to your boss and your board that you’re making a positive difference at your company.

Competency

The multiple-choice quiz you give at the end of a training session or course measures the knowledge gained by a participant. Assessing competency—the ability to put that knowledge to use and solve problems—is more difficult.

But competent employees are of great value to companies. In fact, organizations with strong competency management programs are more likely to see increased revenue, employee retention, and customer satisfaction.

That’s why competency makes for such a great training effectiveness KPI.

How you measure competency will vary based on the skills you’re testing. For example, you might be able to use roleplaying to see how well a salesperson can apply the knowledge from a seminar.

Note: it’s best to test for competency after a period of time. If employees learn and apply something right away but forget it after 30 days, the training wasn’t very effective.

But you probably wouldn’t give a coding quiz to your development team. In this case, tying the training to specific metrics is a better measure of competency.

For example, if your development team went through a training that aimed to reduce code errors through better teamwork, you might look at bug reports, use of collaboration tools, and self-assessments to see if your developers are putting their knowledge to use.

Whenever possible, use real-world metrics to track the success of your training program. They’re a big help with the next KPI in our list.

Job Impact

Do your training activities have a real effect on how your employees do their jobs? If not, then your training isn’t having its desired effect.

To find out, choose specific metrics that serve as a bellwether of your employees’ effectiveness.

Here are a few metrics that you could measure for salespeople:

  • Number of calls/emails in a day
  • Number of closed sales in a day
  • Customer satisfaction ratings
  • Average deal size

The challenge is to connect those back to training. You’ll need to use some data analysis skills, maybe in combination with self-evaluations, to figure this out.

One of the best ways to do this is to target specific metrics before you plan the training. Have a plan for what you’re going to measure and how the training will affect that measurement.

Then use that goal to build your training program.

Return on Investment

ROI is the ultimate metric of success in business. If an activity has a negative ROI, there’s little chance the company will keep spending time and money on it.

Training and development are no different. But this can be a difficult KPI for training managers, because connecting a change in company profits to training and development isn’t a straightforward process.

In our article on calculating ROI for your training programs, we outlined an eight-step process:

  1. Choose training goals
  2. Choose training metrics
  3. Choose a training and provider (unless you run your trainings in-house)
  4. Choose which employees will be trained
  5. Complete the training
  6. Calculate the cost of training
  7. Analyze the selected metrics
  8. Calculate training ROI

To get more details on how to calculate your training ROI, be sure to read the entire post.

It’s not easy to come up with target metrics to tie back to training initiatives. But training and HR managers should prioritize this KPI. If you haven’t shown value to company leadership and budgets need to be cut, yours could be on the chopping block.

Measurement Leads to Improvement

You don’t have to measure all of these KPIs. In fact, you might just start with one or two. Let’s say your company wants to see the on-the-job impact of training for project management. A training manager might use these KPIs, for example:

  • Completion rate, to see how many employees are following through on the training
  • Time to completion, for measuring efficiency
  • Real-world indicators like project speed and cost

These KPIs form a solid foundation for assessing your learning program.

But as your training program grows and you continue to add new courses and activities, you’ll want deeper insights. You might add ROI and learner satisfaction, for example.

Remember too that the metrics that work best for your company won’t be the same as those at another company.

Keep your overall training goals in mind when setting up your KPIs and measurements. Then build from there.

And if you’re not familiar with the Kirkpatrick model, this is a great time for learning about it or getting a quick refresher. It’ll help you conceptualize the journey from training to result. Check it out here.

Dann is a content strategy and marketing consultant who helps B2Bs generate demand and leads. He also blogs about strategy and content marketing at www.dannalbright.com.