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Measuring the economic impact of Learning & Development in 2022

There needs to be a shift in the way L&D analyse and permanently repair root causation of individual employee knowledge gaps that continue to impede economic growth and hamper productivity.

How can Learning & Development teams ensure they get the greatest economic impact from their employee training in 2022?

“It might well be a sweeping statement to say that the majority of training within some organisations is inherently flawed, but to qualify that statement organisations must realise that purpose, content, and timing of employee training – and the way it is delivered – is going to be paramount to improving employee capability, job satisfaction, KPIs, and wider economic growth within businesses in 2022.

For that to happen, there needs to be a shift in the way L&D analyse and permanently repair root causation of individual employee knowledge gaps that continue to impede economic growth and hamper productivity.”

Harvey believes that (often) mandated, one-size-fits-all training is not only counterproductive to improving business productivity but that it is also extremely disenfranchising for employees. He also urges L&D professionals to be acutely mindful of addressing historical transient training factors when designing and reviewing their learning programmes in 2022.

Harvey outlined:
“The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Learning & Skills at Work Survey 2021 found that businesses are now predominantly delivering their training via webinars, virtual classrooms, LMS, social learning, and online education platforms. Similarly, the majority of arranged or funded learning initiatives over the last 12 months were also webinars, virtual classrooms, and massive open online courses (MOOCs).[1]

Historically, these ‘default’ learning provisions have not been able to entirely and permanently address the transient training issues that impedes employees from becoming more proficient in their role – and the evidence supports this.

The Department for Education’s Employee Skills Survey (ESS) research report – which had over 81,000 employers participating in the most recent study – is one of the world’s largest business surveys.[2]

The ESS survey found that 79% of employee skills gaps were caused entirely by transient factors (they also noted this was historically the case in all previous ESS surveys and that the prevalence of transient factors has increased since 2017).

These factors include individuals being new to their role (67%), training only being partially completed (61%), staff lacking motivation (38%), staff having been trained but not sufficiently improving (33%), and staff not having received appropriate training for their role (28%).”

For Harvey, fixing the transient training issues means that L&D professionals need to recognise the science behind how employees learn, and look to deploy methods that better enable them to improve and evidence employee capability on an individual and continual basis.

“The CIPD survey noted that measuring the impact, transfer, and engagement of L&D activities are continually hampered by barriers to evaluation; specifically expressing that these activities cannot be effectively measured via end-to-end course questionnaires or post-training surveys.

They also state that evidence needs to permeate and inform every step of the decision-making process. And, whilst their findings indicate there has been a slight rise in the proportion of organisations now critically evaluating the impact of their L&D initiatives in some way, the primary barriers still directly relate to assessing the wider impact on the performance of the business and how the transfer of learning is reflected and measured in the behavioural changes of their employees within their day-to-day performance.

To further compound matters, the CIPD research also indicates that the majority of L&D professionals do not use evidence to inform their learning programme design, with only a third of survey participants stating that they are proactive in identifying performance issues before recommending a solution.

If L&D are going to better demonstrate their value in 2022 – both in terms of fiscal impact and their potential to build a more inclusive, engaged, and high-performing workforce – they will require agile support functions to translate employee knowledge gaps into tangible learning outcomes that employees can apply within their roles to benefit the economic requirements of their business.”

Harvey’s organisation, which conducted a three-year employee competency study, analysed the responses to over 72 million employee knowledge questions across a broad spectrum of business sectors relating to employee operational skills and knowledge (defined as: knowledge of products, services, policy, process, and governance) to ascertain an average level of tenured employee competency. Their study concluded the average level of employee competency to be just 52%.[3]

Our study shows that, in the majority of cases, employees only really know half of what they need to in order to optimally perform their role within organisational and (where applicable) regulatory requirements.

Behavioural science dictates that we forget as much as 80% of what we are taught within the first 30 days when there is no attempt to retain it.[4] Therefore, transient factors – the process of forgetting occurring with the passage of time – shapes how we retain and effectively apply required learning content.

Without a continual assessment and improvement methodology to ‘plug’ these transient factors, it seems inevitable that some L&D teams will continue to be hampered by a lack of evidence that illustrates how transferred learning is improving employee capability and business performance.

Employee-centric solutions like our AI – Clever Nelly – is supporting L&D professionals to better deliver and translate their learning content on an individual employee basis, whilst also empowering L&D teams to evidence the wider economic business impact that their training is having on business KPIs.

Microsoft recently reported that our AI has specifically helped them to increase employee subject knowledge by 19% across specific lines of business, increase First Call Resolution by 9%, Customer Satisfaction by 5% and reduce Call Handling Times by 12.5%, illustrating the positive impact that the right technology can have on employee performance and productivity when aligned with the expertise of L&D teams.

[1] CIPD, ‘Learning and Skills at Work Survey 2021’, available here:

[2] GOV.UK, The Department for Education, ‘Employer Skills Survey 2019’, available here:

[3] Elephants Don’t Forget, ‘Three-year competency assessment study’, 2017-19

[4] German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850 – 1909) hypothesised that training material is exponentially forgotten from the moment a learner consumes it unless efforts are made to preserve it. His study – now famously characterised by the ‘Forgetting Curve’ – demonstrated the decline of retention over time. For more information, visit:

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