Posted: 03 Apr. 2023 9.5 min. read

Leveraging learning analytics to drive business impact

Measuring the ROI of learning and development

Authored by Jen Stempel, Neha Yadav, Lindsey West, and Josh Rovner.

Organizations are making the shift from traditional jobs to using skills as the fuel to drive talent and business decisions that accelerate business agility and growth. With that, they are reimagining their workforce practices—from performance management to learning and development to rewards to hiring.

As part of this broader shift, the role of learning and development (L&D) is rapidly evolving beyond creating and delivering training to enabling personalized and skills-based development and driving the overall impact of the business. Learning and development organizations are faced with an imperative to focus on outcomes rather than learning activity or consumption—and to adopt a data-driven approach to anticipating needs and measuring training effectiveness from learning.

Learning analytics, when done well, can help answer critical questions that business and learning leaders are asking:

  • Are we building the right skills, in the right way, to develop the talent needed to deliver on business objectives and engage our people?
  • Are we creating a continuous learning environment?
  • How do we anticipate what our learners need in this rapidly changing environment?
  • Where should we invest more time, effort, and resources, and where should we pull back?
  • Are we operating in the most efficient way to maximize our resources and speed to performance?

But most learning and development organizations are not prepared to use data to drive decisions or enable personalized learning. According to Deloitte research:

  • 95% of surveyed learning and development organizations do not excel at using data to align learning with the business, run the learning and development organization, or increase the effectiveness of learning methods1.
  • 22% of surveyed learning and development organizations rarely or never track progress toward strategic initiatives.
  • 69% of learning and development organizations lack the skills to ask the right questions to connect learning to business results2.

Strategic focus on learning analytics
Mature learning and development organizations consider learning analytics to be a critical part of their strategy and seek to:

  • Create a single source of truth for integrated learning data contextualized with business priorities, providing a complete picture within their learning environments.
  • Drive enhancements to the learner experience, enabling tailored learning and skills-based development.
  • Secure funding for learning initiatives.
  • Connect learning, business, and performance metrics to demonstrate business impact and learning value.
  • Discover trends and patterns, unlocking actionable insights and driving predictive analytics to inform better business and learning decision-making.

Move the needle on growth
A reimagined approach to measuring training effectiveness and learning impact involves generating insights on priority skill building, informing adaptions to tailor for learner needs, and enabling data-driven investment decisions for optimal utilization of budget and resources. Mature learning and development organizations actively gather data from multiple sources at frequent intervals and empower leaders and learners at all levels to utilize that data to improve development and work outcomes.

Below are examples of how leading-edge learning and development organizations use data and analytics to make an impact on workforce and organizational performance:

  • Drive agility. Monitor growth in proficiency of strategic skills and enduring human capabilities critical to the business objectives; deliver learning initiatives in targeted gap areas. For example, monitor if top skills updated by managers and above in a year (such as leadership, management, and customer orientation) align with the learning initiatives launched to the manager and above population.
  • Personalize development. Leverage data such as skills, experiences, and prior assessment scores to customize learning offered/required for adaptive or proficiency-based learning, as well as to target career development opportunities or project experiences. For example, provide real-time, personalized learning units based on proficiency measured by continuous mini knowledge assessments.
  • Maximize investments. Capture and correlate operational key performance indicators, such as speed to delivery and cost per intervention to drive efficient services, inform build/buy choices, retire content to reduce clutter and optimize machine learning, and overall enable data-driven investment decisions. For example, analyze whether a consistent decrease in learning resources accessed by the sales group may be due to a lack of relevant courses or their perceived value.
  • Empower performance. Place data in the flow of work to give workers a view on their real-time performance, customer insights, and risk areas, to enable data-driven experiential learning, improved decision-making, and overall agility. For example, implement a pop-up window at the corner of the screen of customer care representatives with performance feedback and targeted learning resources.

A holistic framework for learning measurement
Measuring the impact and ROI of learning and development can be segmented into six categories that cover formal and informal learning:

  1. Alignment: how well learning offerings align with business priorities and identified organizational skill gaps
  2. Impact: indicates change on targeted needs, such as critical skill building
  3. Effectiveness: which courses are most and least effective for enabling new knowledge or skills and the transfer of those items to job performance
  4. Engagement: patterns or trends on how learners are engaging with formal and informal learning offerings, including what learners are sharing, liking, or searching for
  5. Operations: indicates speed to delivery and efficiency of the learning organization
  6. Distribution: insights into which learners you are reaching in the organization and where there is a lag

A holistic view of learning measures helps unlock insights to drive targeted talent and learning initiatives and demonstrates learning’s alignment and impact on business objectives, strengthening the partnership with the business.

Getting started
Activating learning analytics can enable learning and development to be a strategic lever for organizational success. It starts with opening the lens beyond leverage of on-hand learning management system (LMS) data to explore the art of the possible and chart a path to impact. Below are a few suggested steps to get started on the journey:

  1. Define your learning analytics strategy. Identify metrics needed to drive insights on gaps and opportunities and better connect to business and learner needs.
  2. Determine data and technology needs. Identify business and talent data sets needed to enable a holistic view, along with tools or accelerators to activate the integrated insights.
  3. Test and scale the solution(s). Integrate the data you can easily incorporate, test the insights, and identify additional needs/gaps. Pilot with a priority skill or a specific business unit or function, such as customer service or sales. At the same time, establish an operating mechanism for ongoing operations (e.g., set cadence, process, and resources for pulling reports), and onboard and/or upskill sufficient resources with the right skills and/or influence to enable scaling.

Learning and development organizations need to build ongoing relationships with both business and talent leaders to actively drive better alignment with business and talent priorities. To build their own data expertise and enlist support in activating the learning analytics solution, learning and development leaders should connect with other functions (e.g., internal workforce analytics) to understand what they monitor and how they use the data to make decisions.

Demonstrating the impact of learning has often been referred to as the “holy grail,” but with the advancement in analytics and the vast amount of data produced by an organization, it is within reach. Learning and development organizations can reimagine their approach to measurement by redefining how they measure success and making analytics critical to achieving a learning strategy. Put business outcomes at the top of your list, deprioritize “busy metrics,” and change the conversation with organizational leaders.



1 The State of Learning Measurement, Bersin by Deloitte / Todd Tauber and Wendy Wang-Audia
2 Leading Practices to Improve Learning Measurement, Bersin by Deloitte / Todd Tauber and Wendy Wang-Audia


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