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7 Key Learning & Development Metrics to Track

Struggling to get budgets approved for training initiatives?

7 Key Learning & Development Metrics to Track

Perhaps you’ve got a chief financial officer (CFO) who sees professional development as an unfortunate expense rather than a worthy investment that benefits both the organisation and the employee? If so, this well-worn hypothetical conversation between a CFO and a chief executive officer (CEO) will sound familiar.

CFO: What happens if we spend all this money training our employees and they leave?
CEO: What happens if we don’t, and they stay?

The simple truth is that employers can’t afford not to invest in learning & development (L&D). But where’s the proof? What does a training program really accomplish in terms of productivity? Employee loyalty? The bottom line?

Fortunately, there is help at hand. Although the assessment of learning has traditionally been put into the ‘too hard’ basket, or has been hazy at best, there are in fact numerous proven ways to calculate the value of learning initiatives. This guide provides seven simple calculations to try, complete with examples and explanations of why these metrics are important.

Training experience satisfaction

Research has shown that well-designed and prepared training activities will result in job training satisfaction, which then influences overall job satisfaction. Conducting a survey of learners either during or immediately after a course can reveal how they felt about the training, what they enjoyed, and what they would change to improve the learning experience. Questions can focus on the instructor, the modality, the tools or the content, or a mix of all of these.

As an example:

Four employees took part in training. A post-training survey asked them to rate 5 questions from 1-5. The sum of these ratings was 80; the number of answers received was 20.
80/20 = 4
A training experience satisfaction score of 4/5 was achieved.

Why is this important?

Most learning initiatives are works in progress, constantly being refined as the needs of employees and the business evolve. Asking employees to rate their satisfaction and provide comments can be useful when trying to pinpoint a particular area for improvement that can’t be determined with quantitative data. Ultimately this feedback can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your training, make improvements, and plan for future courses.

Likert scale questions are a popular alternative to single-choice and multiple-choice questions. This format asks respondents to assign a number from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree) to each question.


Assign a number between 1 and 5 to answer the following questions with 1 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest.

  • How engaging was the instructor?
  • How relevant was the training?
  • How useful was the training content?
  • What was the quality of the training venue?
  • What was the quality of the course materials?

Course completion rate

The course completion rate reveals how many employees have successfully completed a learning course or program. Whether it’s assessed on a module-by-module basis, by specific programs or lessons undertaken, it’s important to understand how many employees start and successfully finish the training assigned to them.

It’s important to remember that regardless of whether courses are delivered offline or online, there will be dropouts. That’s why it’s just as important to identify when and why exactly some participants choose not to proceed. While this metric will not reveal those details, for online courses in particular, it should be possible to gauge where roadblocks are occurring. A survey of learners can also identify what’s going wrong.

As an example:

20 employees took part in training, but only 16 of those completed the training.
16/20 X 100 = 80
An 80% completion rate was achieved.

Why is this important?

Low completion rates can indicate that employees are struggling with certain concepts or are not as engaged with the learning as they should be – which may indicate problems with delivery, content or instructional design. High completion rates indicate that employees are invested in training and are more likely to retain and apply what they have learned.

Assessment pass rate

The assessment pass rate shows whether employees retain and recall their training enough to pass the assessment. The metric only works if you have assessments in your training program applicable to the content.

It’s important to note that putting learning theory into practice is difficult. Indeed, studies have shown that we only remember:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 90% of what we do

That’s why, in addition to tests, exams or questionnaires following a course, it’s also important to try and ensure there are opportunities for learning to be applied on the job.

As an example:

20 employees took part in a course. 15 of those passed the assessment test.
15/20 X 100 = 75
A pass rate of 75% was achieved.

Why is this important?

Tracking employee assessment scores and simulations is a reliable way to determine how much information they are learning and retaining. If an employee is completing training quickly but struggling with assessments, it may require a rethink of how content is being delivered. This can give you some insight into how much they are remembering and what they are likely to apply in real-life scenarios.

Time spent in training

Simply understanding the time given/allowed for training is an important metric to track. It has become even more critical in the age of eLearning, where employees typically have access to training at any time, from any location. An overly high value for this metric may indicate:

  • Inaccurate demand forecasting for employee training
  • Sub-par employee performance
  • Highly manual training procedures (i.e., excessive use of physical classrooms instead of online training modules, etc.)
  • Poor training session structures (i.e., impractical, irrelevant, and uninteresting training sessions)

Extremely low values for this metric can also be an issue and may indicate inaccurate demand forecasting for employee training, inefficient scheduling procedures for employee training, and poor employee performance tracking and management.

As an example:

In a specific time period (e.g. in the month of June), a group of 27 employees took part in a series of four 1-hour courses. In the same time period, a different group of 20 employees took part in a 2-hour training session.

Total number of hours employees spent training in a set timeframe: (27 x 4) + (20 x 2) = 148
Number of employees who undertook training in the same timeframe: 20 + 27 = 47
Time spent in training: 148 ÷ 47 = 3.14

Just over 3 hours on average were spent on training during this timeframe.

Why is this important?

There is no set or standardised amount of training that employees should offer, however, some industries and job roles require regular compliance-related training to be undertaken, along with updates to licenses and certifications, etc. Most employers acknowledge that learning & development has benefits to both the employee and the organisation, whether that is training to enhance or develop technical skills, policy or process updates, or ‘soft’ (or ‘essential’) skills training.

As a guide, ELMO’s 2023 HR Industry Benchmark Report, based on a survey of more than 1200 HR and payroll professionals in Australia and New Zealand, revealed that Australian employees will typically undertake 7 days of formal training per year, while New Zealand employees will undertake 6 days per year (‘formal’ training in this context is training that takes employees away from their daily role).

Employee retention rate

Measuring the employee retention rate will show you the percentage of employees that remain with your organisation after a certain period of time. Employee retention is impacted by many factors; learning & development is a critical element but it must be weighed alongside other elements such as the overall work environment, interpersonal relationships, workplace culture, etc.

As an example:

At the start of July, the organisation employs 65 FTEs. At the end of that quarter, this has dropped to 63 FTEs
63/65 X 100 = 97
The employee retention rate is 97% during Q1.

Why is this important?

While it’s always useful to keep tabs on employee retention, it’s even more important to track new hire retention. Newly hired employees who have come through onboarding and induction training who still feel ill-equipped for their roles are likely to struggle or even resign within their first three months. Conversely, high retention rates suggest that the initial training program was successful – although there are of course a mix of elements that impact retention, such as culture fit, lack of career progression, lack of recognition, pay issues, etc. Read ELMO’s blog on the key retention drivers.

Training cost per employee

Training costs can include experts, instructors, materials, the technology utilised, employee salary while being trained, and more. The training cost per employee can be used in other metric formulas to assess how effective training program resources are being used.

As an example:

25 employees undertook training in Q4, 2021. The combined training costs were $10,500.
10500/25 = 420
The training cost per employee was $420.

Why is this important?

The costs involve monitoring or developing all of the related costs of the program targeted for the ROI calculation. Include the following items among the cost components:

  • Cost to design and develop the program possibly prorated over the expected life of the program
  • Cost of all program materials provided to each participant
  • Cost for the instructor/facilitator, including preparation time as well as delivery time
  • Cost of the facilities for the training program
  • Cost of travel, lodging, and meals for the participants, if applicable

Training return on investment (ROI)

This metric is useful for justifying the expense of a training course, comparing one training course to another, and helping to establish training as a core part of organisational operations. It is a simple way to assess the effectiveness of training and measure the value generated by learning initiatives.

As an example:

$1000 is invested into training and profits of $3000 are obtained. The calculation is simple:
(3000 – 1000)/1000 X 100 = 200
The training ROI is 200%. The higher the percentage, the more profitable the investment has been.

Why is this important?

Even if the goal of the training isn’t explicitly to increase profits, you may expect to see productivity or efficiency improvements that help drive sales and increase revenue. Using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based) training goals and specific, focused topic training can make this easier.

Always ask: How much of the change I’m seeing is due to the training course or program? Ask training participants and their managers to record their thoughts about the training, as well as other factors that could have impacted performance (including profit) over the measured period.

Technology enables HR professionals to extract and analyse data relating to every aspect of the employee lifecycle, including organisational learning. ELMO Learning Management, for example, allows users to generate, export and schedule reports, create custom reporting with charts, compare course completion rates across the organisation and automatically generate course completion certificates.

ELMO Software is a cloud-based solution that helps thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to effectively manage their people, process and pay. ELMO solutions span the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. They can be used together or stand-alone, and are configurable according to an organisation’s unique processes and workflows. Automate and streamline your operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bolster productivity.