In the Learning and Development Annual Survey Report by CIPD, it was found that around 60 per cent of businesses have difficulties testing and measuring the effectiveness of learning outcomes. My own experience working with many businesses is that often development activities are undertaken without  being abundantly clear about the return on investment.  But yet this can easily be determined and measured.

In Manpower Groups’ Talent Shortage Survey of 2018, it was found that 45 per cent of employers surveyed worldwide were experiencing difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent.  Furthermore, 54 per cent of employers surveyed said that talent shortages impacted on their client-facing abilities to a medium or high degree.

Developing employees is essential

Against such a backdrop, it is vital that developing employees is on the agenda. We all know of course that, traditionally, learning and development is the first casualty in an economic downturn. But faced with such a disparity in available talent, it really doesn’t make sense. One of the reasons businesses dismiss their development plans so readily is because of the difficulties in measuring the effectiveness of development programmes.

Many learning professionals rely on evaluation models like Kirkpatrick.   If used properly these can give valuable information about learning effectiveness.  If linked to results can show the impact made. This is good practice. But there are two steps missing which are essential if a business owner is to be sure to invest wisely in developing employees and achieve their learning outcomes.

Understanding the Importance of Learning Outcomes

The Necessity of Pre-Determined Outcomes

Before embarking on any employee development program, it’s crucial for business owners to understand the specific and measurable impact of learning outcomes. This means identifying exactly what needs to change as a result of learning and development activities. It’s not just about ticking legal boxes or fulfilling basic requirements. For instance, training programs for managers on handling sickness absence should aim not only at legal compliance but also at tangible goals like reducing the level of absenteeism.

Setting Non-Negotiable Outcomes

When investing in employee development, it’s essential to have clear, non-negotiable outcomes. These could range from reducing absenteeism, increasing wellbeing initiatives, to facilitating quicker returns to work. The key is to establish outcomes that are critical for the organization’s success and ensure that these goals are at the heart of the training program.

The Benefits of New Skills

Impact on Productivity

Learning new skills can significantly raise an organization’s productivity. This could manifest in various ways such as speeding up processes, achieving more within the same timeframe, or even eliminating unnecessary steps in existing procedures.

Enhancing Efficiency

Another critical benefit of employee development is the increase in efficiency. This can mean reducing the amount of resources or costs needed to produce the same or improved quality of work. Efficient use of resources is crucial for sustainable growth and competitiveness.

Improving Effectiveness

Lastly, developing new skills can greatly improve the effectiveness of employees. This is measured by how quickly and efficiently desired results are achieved following the training. Effectiveness in achieving targets not only benefits the organization but also boosts employee morale and job satisfaction.

Identifying Outcomes is Vital

Setting Challenging and Measurable Objectives

The second, but equally important step, is the establishment of challenging and measurable outcomes, targets, or objectives for individual employees. It’s essential to clearly define the expected changes and make each individual accountable for realizing these changes. This specificity ensures that the learning is directed and purposeful.

Accountability and Business Performance

While the overarching goal of employee development is to enhance overall business performance, accountability at an individual level is crucial. Without this accountability, it becomes challenging to test or measure the return on investment of the learning program. Each employee’s contribution towards the set goals must be identifiable and measurable, making it easier to assess the effectiveness of the training and its impact on the business as a whole.

Integrating Brain-Based Learning into Employee Development

The Importance of Understanding Brain Learning Processes

A critical aspect of designing effective employee development programs is understanding how the brain learns. This knowledge is pivotal in enhancing the learning outcomes of any training initiative. The brain’s learning process is deeply rooted in the formation and strengthening of synapses, which are the connections between neurons.

The Role of Synapses in Learning

Synapses play a vital role in the learning process. Whenever we learn something new, our brain creates new synapses, and with repeated exposure and practice, these synapses strengthen. Conversely, without repetition, these synaptic connections can weaken and eventually disappear – a phenomenon often referred to as “use it or lose it.” This biological basis of learning underlines the importance of continuous practice and reinforcement in any learning activity.

Repetition and Embedding Learning

Given this understanding of brain function, it’s crucial to incorporate repetition and reinforcement in the design of development activities. By doing so, we ensure that learning is not a one-off event but a continuous process that leads to the strengthening of synapses and, consequently, the solidification of new skills and knowledge.

Crafting Effective Learning Programs

To optimize learning outcomes, development programs must be structured in a way that aligns with these neural learning processes. This might involve spaced repetition, practical applications of new knowledge, and ongoing support to ensure the new skills are repeatedly practiced and applied. The goal is to transform fleeting information into long-term knowledge and skills, thereby enhancing the overall effectiveness and impact of the training.

By taking into account how the brain learns and emphasizing the need for repetition and practice in learning design, organizations can significantly improve the efficacy of their employee development programs. This approach not only facilitates the acquisition of new skills but also ensures their retention and application, leading to measurable improvements in performance and productivity.


In conclusion, understanding and measuring the impact of learning outcomes is a critical aspect of any employee development program. It involves setting pre-determined, non-negotiable outcomes that align with the organization’s goals. The benefits of new skills acquired through such programs are manifold, impacting productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. However, the key to realizing these benefits lies in identifying clear, challenging, and measurable objectives for individual employees, ensuring accountability, and enabling precise evaluation of the program’s return on investment. Through this approach, businesses can not only meet legal and procedural requirements but also drive significant improvements in their overall performance and competitiveness.

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I help leaders develop self- mastery, helping them to become confident in their own inner guidance.

I collaborate with leadership experts, managers and HR professionals to help them get their own message and unique services and products to a wide audience.