Learning Analytics: Evaluating the Business Influence of Learning Programs

• 5 min read

One of the biggest challenges in learning and development (L&D) today is demonstrating the impact of your programs. Which means, one of the questions that gets asked the most is, “What’s the best way to measure the success of my online courses and training?” 

People have been talking about learning measurement for decades. Ever since Kirkpatrick came up with his 4-level model △ in the 1950’s, L&D professionals have been trying to understand the relationship between learning outcomes and business results.

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

This challenge is often such a tough nut to crack that many organizations forgo evaluating their learning activities and training efforts altogether. And when they do evaluate their programs, most companies focus primarily on course evaluations to measure participants’ reactions, retention of concepts, and satisfaction with online courses and e-learning material. 

That’s because (and I think we can all agree on this point) that measuring the impact of learning and demonstrating the influence of learning programs isn’t cut and dried. In fact, it’s hard. (Really hard.) But it’s also really necessary. L&D teams need to be able to prove that their learning programs influence business results.  (Otherwise, good luck getting any buy-in or support—financial or otherwise—from the powers that be.) They also need to be able to increase the influence over time.

Alignment is key

The best way to increase the business impact of your learning programs is to connect your learning strategy to actual business goals. 🔗

It’s important to note that the way that learning impacts an organization is very specific and unique to each organization’s goals, and those goals can change over time. So L&D leaders may need to regularly rethink their learning measurement strategies, redefine what success looks like, and reimagine how programs can be used to influence business goals associated with employee development, organizational performance, sales enablement, partner performance, customer performance, etc.

Bottom line: If your learning programs don’t align with specific business goals, you’ll have a hard time proving that your programs are making an impact.

Here are three things to consider when trying to increase the impact your learning programs have on your company’s overall business goals:

  1.     The direction of the business 🗺

Forward-thinking leaders are deeply connected to the rest of the organization. They don’t just understand their own metrics, they understand employee challenges and the goals of each department. They understand the business KPIs used by the larger organization and are connected to the bigger picture.

  1.     What are the measures of success (business KPIs) 🎯

Understanding the general direction and challenges the organization faces is one thing but understanding how those KPIs are being measured is another. The metrics that are important to your business should strongly influence the metrics that L&D uses. For example, if customer satisfaction is a goal for the company, then you should focus on improving metrics that support that goal (like NPS, loyalty, and overall satisfaction scores).

  1.     Inter-departmental collaboration 🤝

Getting other parts of the organization to share information on KPIs can be trickier than it sounds. That’s where inter-departmental collaboration comes in. Staying connected to other departments helps you get a better understanding of the business problems your learning programs should address. Establishing good relationships with inter-departmental stakeholders can also make it a whole lot easier to get the buy-in you need to drive change. 

Focusing on these three things will keep you in lockstep with the business—which is critical in an age where your programs need to be aligned and adaptive enough to respond to changing business priorities.

Better data = better decision making 

Organizations relying on data analytics to make good decisions, and L&D can’t afford to be left behind. To ensure you’re making the best decisions (for your learning programs and your business), ask yourself: 

  • What are your organization’s top three priorities for this year? (For the next three years?) 
  • How do your learning programs align with the business KPIs that are important to the organization? 
  • What are you doing to ensure you’re connected to the overall business and its challenges? 
  • How often does L&D actively collaborate with leaders with other functions to create strategy plans to solve the big problems?

And finally, back to the original question… 🤔

How do I measure the impact of my learning programs?

That depends. If you want to do things the hard way, then you manually collect, analyze, and export data sets from your learning environments to compare against data from your business systems. But doing that takes tons of time (and tons of spreadsheets). If, however, you want to do things the smarter, easier way (and I’m guessing you do), then you can let a learning analytics tool do all the big data analysis for you. (Preferably one with robust data visualization capabilities that can also connect your digital learning data to your business apps.)

In the world of corporate and online learning we know how challenging it can be to analyze and understand the impact and success that your learning strategy is having (or not having) on the business. Docebo Learning Analytics, the latest addition to our artificial intelligence (AI)-based, multi-product suite of learning solutions, is designed to solve these challenges. 

Learning Analytics is a business intelligence (BI) tool that’s totally focused on learning. It enables you to understand the real-world results behind your learning programs at a much more detailed level. It also uncovers new insights into learning processes, as well as how you can leverage your learning programs to drive improved decision making, higher performance metrics, and greater impact for your business.

Connecting your learning analytics to your business data 

Learning Analytics integrates with your learning management system (LMS) and third-party systems—like Salesforce, Workday, Jira and HubSpot, just to name a few. It collects and analyzes learning and business data, and then automatically correlates how learning metrics influence business KPIs and results. 

Ok. So what does this look like? Well, it could look a little something like this. 👇

Let’s say you recently launched an employee training program intended to improve customer experience (which just so happens to be a top priority for the business). Learning Analytics can pull data from your LMS (like # sessions and completed enrollments) to show how your program is performing. It can also pull data from business systems (Zendesk and Ask Nicely, in this case) that track the specific business goal you’re trying to influence.

As the dashboard above shows, as the number of course enrollments increases 📈 the number of support tickets on the same subject decreases 📉 , and the NPS score overtime improves. 🌟  This proves that your training is having a positive impact on the quality of service customers are receiving, which is resulting in fewer open tickets and a higher NPS. When all this data is presented side by side, it’s easy to show the business impact of your learning programs. 

A lot of organizations already have a generic BI tool. The reality is those tools don’t have the advanced logic and algorithms in place to analyze learning data. Which makes connecting your learning programs to business results next to impossible. Learning Analytics focuses on learning data. Not only does it analyze learning data, but it also collects business data and correlates how your learning programs are impacting the business. Which means you can make decisions that are good for your learners AND your business, and you can finally prove what you’ve known all along: Your learning programs power your business.