The proof is finally here: Training is a critical revenue generator.

Whenever I think about the historic challenges around measuring results in the learning and development (L&D) space, my brain always wanders to the world of advertising. Back in the 1960’s Mad Men era, brands had no choice but to place their faith in a creative concept and their dollars into print, radio or television execution. “Results” were measured based on focus groups, ad impressions and tenuous links to increases or decreases in sales.

Then along came Big Data and everything changed. The Mad Men became the Math Men with the power to precisely target messages, measure clicks and quantify every dollar invested in digital campaigns. All this has shifted the way brands buy advertising forever (eMarketer estimates that by 2023, digital ads will capture more than two-thirds of all ad spending).

While digital marketers have hitched their wagon to the data star and transformed their collective reputation from cost center to profit generator, L&D has had a harder time breaking out of soft-measurement purgatory. Despite 96% of L&D managers saying they want to measure the impact of learning, they haven’t had the tools or the data to get there—completion rates, test scores and learner ratings just don’t cut it.

Putting L&D in the driver’s seat

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” (Don Draper, Mad Men)

The good news is that L&D can now benefit from Big Data just as much as marketing did. They just need the right kind of data. That’s because artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning depend on vast amounts of quality data to be effective. This is an area where Axonify really stands apart from other learning solutions.

Our fun, engaging, question-based approach to learning was built for frontline employees, who only have short bursts of time available to train and don’t sit at desks. Because Axonify fits into their workflow and only takes 3-5 minutes a day, we get extremely high engagement rates (83%+ of learners engage with the platform, 2 – 3 times a week). This generates massive volumes of high-quality data on every employee. Then our Axonify Impact™ feature uses machine learning to connect all this rich data back to an organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs) to show without a doubt where training is delivering impact.

 

Real organizations, real results

After analyzing the results from actual organizations using Axonify Impact in their learning programs, we can now unequivocally say that training programs do impact business results. In fact, across all organizations in the study, we found that 29% of business outcomes can be attributed back to training programs delivered through Axonify.

Here are some key highlights from the research:

1. Companies are most often measuring KPIs that map back to top-line revenue

Regardless of which industry the organizations sit in, we found that the KPIs they want to tie training impact to tend to fall into a few areas: Sales (69% of companies are measuring), Customer Satisfaction (15%), Safety (11%), Productivity (4%) and Quality Assurance (1%). It’s interesting to note that 84% of these KPIs relate back to top-line revenue (15% customer satisfaction + 69% sales). Organizations clearly want to understand what type of learning has a direct and specific impact on growing their business.

2. Yes, the impact of learning and development is real

When we dig down another layer, we can see the impact that training is having on the KPIs noted above.

  • Training has a 33% impact on Sales
  • Training has a 12% impact on Customer Satisfaction
  • Training has a 29% impact on Safety
  • Training has a 39% impact on Productivity
  • Training has a 2% impact on Quality Assurance

3. There are five main factors driving the impact

Now we know training does have an impact. But what is it about the training that’s having the most influence? It turns out there are five factors that drive the business impact.

  1. Performance – This is the degree to which answering a question correctly influences business impact.
  2. Engagement – This is the degree to which simply engaging with the platform influences business impact.
  3. Progress – This is the degree to which content consumption and progression influences business impact.
  4. Freshness – This is the degree to which how recently a piece of content has been consumed influences business impact.
  5. Confidence – This is the degree to which confidence associated with a question response influences business impact.

Let’s break this down a little more.

Performance, Progress and Engagement are all about driving knowledge transfer. But Freshness and Confidence fall into the continuous adaptive reinforcement category, and that’s where things get really interesting. It turns out the act of making sure employees know the right information, are confident in what they know and that it’s fresh in their heads are the most critical drivers of learning impact. In fact, over half (52%) of the impact of training happens because it is continually reinforced and always adapting.

This means a one-time training event will only generate half of the potential impact. Reinforcement is key. You must keep learning fresh, continuously reinforcing key concepts if you want them to stick and positively influence your business results. Intelligent, ongoing reinforcement has been the foundation of Axonify since the beginning.

 

The loop is (finally!) closed on learning measurement

After decades of trying to measure impact in learning and development, we’ve finally achieved it at scale. We now have definitive proof that Axonify Impact ties knowledge to behaviors and business results. Not only can you now prove the impact of the training programs you’re working so hard to deliver, the data lets you know when a KPI might be missed, so you can automatically course correct your learning to mitigate the risk.

So, spread the great news! L&D is no longer a cost center. It’s a critical revenue generator. Your seat at the table is waiting for you.

Want to dig into the results of the Axonify Impact report data a little more? Check them out.

 

 

Carol isn’t your typical leader. She’s driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge, but she’s also a doors-open, come-see-me-anytime kind of executive. Carol doesn’t just talk the talk—she definitely walks the walk. You can read more from her on Training Industry Magazine, ATD, CLO and as a regular contributor for Fortune.

Looking for more information? We’d love to talk.