Measuring the Success of Workforce Education Programs

How should your company measure its workforce education program? Here are six key areas to consider to demonstrate ROI.

Training Magazine

Workforce education programs—developed to empower employees with new skills for the mutual benefit of themselves and their organization—are a powerful tool for helping companies grow stronger and create social impact. A strategically designed program will cultivate deep learning and confidence and shape a more equitable, and resilient workplace, which is more important today than ever. But simply adopting such a program is not enough to reap its full value. Measurement is essential to ensure maximum impact and ongoing support from senior leadership.

If you’re planning to implement a workforce education program or want to get more serious about the one your organization already has in place, the critical question then becomes—how should your company measure its efforts? To demonstrate the ROI, think through these six key areas of impact:

  • Talent attraction and retention
  • Revenue and profitability
  • Business agility
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Brand awareness and sentiment
  • Corporate citizenship 

Step 1: Identify your priorities and become an expert on the data

To lay the groundwork for measurement, it’s important to first determine the impacts you are trying to drive and then collect as much data about those areas as possible. For example, if one of your goals is to better attract and retain high-performing talent, start by figuring out your current average employee turnover and mobility rates, how much time and money it costs to onboard new employees, what aspects of your company attract potential employees, and more. This forms your baseline and will help you benchmark success later.

As you’re collecting data, you may find that you don’t have much information about the areas you’re looking to improve. For example, when you ask questions such as “How much does the company spend on recruiting?” you might hear vague answers like “I don’t know, we have a recruiting department for that.” Or you may hear that turnover varies by group. Or that no one has actually calculated the cost of turnover. If so, don’t get discouraged—that just means there are lots of opportunities to improve. 

Step 2: Set metrics that matter

Once you’ve decided on the areas you want to improve and understand where you’re starting from, it’s time to choose the best short-, medium-, and long-term metrics for assessing progress throughout the lifecycle of your workforce education program. It’s important to go with metrics that speak to both business and employee growth and to resist the temptation to set vanity metrics that may appear impressive to leadership but ultimately won’t be useful in gauging progress or future decision-making.

Let’s say, for example, that one of your priorities is to foster a diverse and inclusive workplace at your organization. By empowering people with equal access to education—ensuring that the same level of opportunity is given to all—workforce education programs are fundamental to an elevated and sustainable DE&I strategy.

Quantifying progress in the short term may mean tracking how many of your employees have received a high school diploma or college degree. In the medium- and longer-term, you will want to look at retention by gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as analyze and track what percentage of your leadership teams are ethnically and gender diverse.

While metrics will of course vary, the idea is the same: pick metrics that will be meaningful indicators of employee engagement and organizational change, so that you can prove impact and showcase your successes.

Step 3: Align on your targets

Empowered with the right metrics, the next task is to pair each with a target to work toward. Think about what you want to achieve, and aim high while taking into account that some areas of impact will naturally take longer to yield results than others. An effective program can give rise to significant outcomes, such as:

  • Raising annual employee retention from 60 percent to 90 percent
  • Increasing revenue per sales employee by 20 percent
  • Tripling the promotion rates among education program participants
  • Growing the advancement of minorities internally by 10 percent
  • Generating more media impressions for your brand
  • Increasing compensation or wages for employees in a local area

Step 4: Begin tracking—and be willing to evolve

You’ll want to start tracking progress early on so that you can be more anticipatory than reactionary in making any adjustments to the program itself or to your objectives. While you will use a range of quantitative measures to gauge how many employees are engaging with and completing courses, as well as how successfully you are tracking toward your targets, don’t underestimate the importance of direct qualitative feedback from your people—especially in our new hybrid workforce environment. Surveying employees who are using online courses is a great way to find out how satisfied they are with the program, what new solutions they would benefit from, and to learn about behavioral changes you were intending to drive.

Keep in mind that investing in your people means helping them grow—and that will not happen overnight. The more engaged and willing you are to refine and evolve your measurement strategy over time, the more impact you will see along the way.

Jonathan Lau
Jonathan Lau is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of InStride.