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Best practices

Showing the ROI of L&D

Brian Park
Founder & CEO at Foreword
Min read
Foreword logo - white
Best practices

Showing the ROI of L&D

Brian Park
Founder & CEO at Foreword
Min read
Foreword logoBest practices

Showing the ROI of L&D

Expert-led workshops that employees crave. Without the busy work.

The starting point is being clear with the objectives you're looking to accomplish with your learning and development budget.

Objectives around L&D tend to fall in one of four buckets:

  • Upskilling the team
  • Retaining talent
  • Engaging the team
  • Building a stronger employer brand to attract talent

Aside from having clear objectives, it's important to go in with the right expectations around how to measure and show the return on investment related to L&D.

There are baked-in challenges with measuring the impact of learning and development much like it's naturally tougher to measure the benefits of investing in culture or brand building.

Knowing that can go a long way in terms of sequencing L&D projects to help us get those quick wins while building the internal trust to work toward those bigger milestones.

Getting some quick wins

There are a couple of things you can do here to notch a few wins under your belt with a tighter feedback loop.

Invest in L&D opportunities with a more observable impact

Some responsibilities at work are higher frequency and more visible than others. If being able to prove initial wins is important to get buy-in around L&D, prioritizing trainings that target areas that are more visible is important.

Some areas that tend to fall in this bucket:

  • Manager trainings: you're promoting more and more ICs to become people managers, relatively inexperienced managers are managing bigger teams, and you're hearing more issues bubbling up. The little overlap in skillset between being an IC and a manager are showing up everywhere - bad meetings, ineffective 1:1s, poor performance and the list goes on.
  • Remote collaboration: being able to work effectively as a team in remote/hybrid environments is a skill that doesn't come quite as naturally as working together in person. There are strategies/tips that can immediately help the way you're collaborating with folks across the entire company.
  • Wellness: people have an innate sense for morale and the vibe of the team. Navigating prolonged stretches of pushing your limits and/or dealing with a lot of uncertainty is not foreign to startups and fast growing companies. Letting off a little steam is important.

The list goes on here, but the key is to identify areas that are clear areas of development in the company and to start there. Prioritizing the must-have's are the name of the game.

Solicit immediate feedback

If you want to get some initial proof points, it's important to ask the team.

How much did people enjoy the workshop? Did they find it valuable with helping them do their job more effectively?

Glowing reviews is certainly a win that you can point to and share with important stakeholders that you're on the right track.

And it'll be a win on multiple fronts: the team will be happy, they'll feel supported and engaged, and they'll be better equipped to perform their jobs.

Proving L&Ds worth on an ongoing basis

With a longer term view, it's important to observe how your L&D initiatives are performing across two key criteria:

  • Are people making use of it?
  • Are you achieving your objectives with L&D?

Over time - each of these criteria are more easily observable and you can begin to draw some themes and patterns.

Usage: are people making use of it?

If folks aren't using L&D options you make available to them, it nearly defeats the purpose of having them.

There are a few things that can be done here to set yourself up for success:

  • Offering the right L&D opportunities: at this point, the data is pretty compelling that people aren't completing on-demand, recorded trainings. The advantages they offer in terms of scalability and ease of administration typically don't outweigh the disadvantages in terms of engagement and completion rates.
  • Creating space to take trainings: colleagues are busy and there's seemingly a never ending list of urgent things to tend to. Making trainings mandatory or making it okay to take advantage of them during the work day can go a long way.

It's stating the obvious, but it's important to design an L&D program that the team will actually make use of.

Performance: how are you tracking toward your objectives?

This is naturally where the rubber meets the road.

What are the key metrics that tie to those initial objectives you set for L&D? How are you tracking toward them?

A few examples of things to track:

  • If one of the objectives was around boosting employee engagement, are you seeing that come through in how folks are responding to engagement surveys?
  • If a goal was around upskilling people managers, is that coming through in performance reviews and feedback from their reports and colleagues?
  • Are you retaining talent more effectively?

The questions you'll be asking yourself here to measure ROI against is largely based on those initial objectives you set for yourself.

The important thing here is to also look beyond the quantitative KPIs and OKRs because L&D is only one component in a myriad of factors that affect those company-level metrics.

Looking through performance reviews and engagement / pulse surveys are where a lot of the key insights will live.

And if you haven't implemented some of these formal procedures around gathering feedback, don't hesitate to just ask and have a dialogue with folks informally!

How Foreword can help

Foreword is a marketplace for live, online workshops and we specialize in supporting busy startups and fast growing companies.

That means we know what's important to invest in and what constraints you're operating in (time, budget). All of our workshops are highly curated with facilitators that have been vetted by experts in adult learning and development (learn about our quality pledge).

You can check out some of our featured workshops or reach out to us at if you're interested in a demo.

Please reach out if you're also looking for some personalized support with designing an L&D program that'll deliver ROI on your objectives.


Brian Park
Written by
Brian Park
As the CEO, among a million other things, Brian spends a lot of his time talking to Foreword users and People people. He occasionally writes about his experience as a startup founder as well as articles to help the community.


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