Measure for Measure

Years ago as a student at Loughborough University I got to know a talented athlete who would frequently run rings around others in training, but never seemed to hit the heights when it mattered on the track. The reason soon became clear. His training schedules were completely random and none of his performances were logged. He refused to let coaches impose any level of discipline, believing it would compromise his natural gifts, and while he gave the occasional decent performance in a race he could never be sure what had prompted it. 

I was reminded of this athlete and his unfulfilled talent at this week’s World of Learning event at the NEC. Exhibitors offered fascinating insights on programme development, empowerment of learners and achieving a smart balance between learning modes, but one theme stood out. 

If we don’t measure what works, how can we repeat it and build on it? If we don’t analyse the return, how can we sensibly invest?

Speaking for CDSM, Steve Finch made the most persuasive case for defining and measuring ROI as applied to learning and development. Over two thirds of companies currently have no mechanism in place for this measurement. They may measure cost and they may measure learner feedback in some form, but when it comes to positive behavioural change and lasting impact on the business, they’re in the dark.

The presentation didn’t just highlight the problems, it pointed towards practical solutions. By applying the Kirkpatrick-Phillips learning model we can look beyond rudimentary feedback and evaluate whether knowledge has been imparted, behaviour has been changed and performance has been measurably improved.


And – crucially – we can establish whether any given method of training has yielded a positive return on investment.

If that makes the evaluation process sound easy, most of us realise it isn’t. It requires diligence and the will to dive deep into a client’s business needs. Before we take a client’s money and start applying solutions, we must help them define their problems. And the satisfaction of delivering measurable benefits is a very fitting reward.

CDSM’s post-presentation Q&A with clients Honda and Mitsubishi reinforced the point that learning and development can only work as a partnership, and these automotive giants are clearly benefiting from a strategy that holds trainers and trainees accountable for what’s passed on, what’s implemented and what benefits accrue. The message from CDSM and from many other providers at the NEC this week was clear; when we challenge ourselves to identify core issues, address them and measure the results, we win.

We win the engagement of our learners.

We win the trust of our clients.

We win. 


Write a comment

Comments: 20
  • #1

    Mike Vaughan (Friday, 21 October 2016 15:57)

    Agree entirely. What is the point of a process that can't be measured? Wasn't able to attend WOL but good to know people were talking about something so practical and too often neglected.

  • #2

    Melissa Grainger (Friday, 21 October 2016 16:11)

    Far too much L&D is still measured only by if it stays under budget. It's not an overhead, it's an investment so don't be afraid to analyse the results. Nice article.

  • #3

    Rhian Johnson (Friday, 21 October 2016 16:36)

    Good - let's focus our training and add measurable value to the business whether it's elearning or classroom learning.

  • #4

    Louise Milne (Friday, 21 October 2016 17:35)

    I thought the article might end with you telling us your student friend mended his ways, won four Olympic titles and his name is Mo Farah but I'm happy enough with what you've shared here. All credit to CDSM for hitting the nail on the head.

  • #5

    Andrew Tibbett (Saturday, 22 October 2016 18:49)

    I've worked with the KP model or years and I find that it pulls me back into line when I really need it. Our work and the value we add should be quantifiable, period. Good post.

  • #6

    Lesley Ackers (Sunday, 23 October 2016 17:23)

    Good to see the learning blend being addressed at WOL. There are times when low-tech is the best option and being open to this is an important part of being a provider. And I don't accept the argument that ROI can't be measured in classroom learning.

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