Learning and development have been a little late to the party in terms of big data, analytics, and implementing data-driven strategies. But as interest in the function grows, especially among executive management, learning pros are looking for bigger and better ways to report on their organizational impact. Training intake metrics are some of the most useful data points you can use to do this.
Gathering and interpreting training intake data helps L&D to close skills gaps, understand the needs and demand for training in the organization, and better analyze existing resources. But training intake is a largely untouched area of the training development process, something we’ve learned in conversation with existing Synapse clients:
“It’s a bit informal. We discuss requests at our weekly team meetings. We discuss questions like: “Is there a theme here? Is it an urgent need? Does this need to be addressed now? Who’s going to circle back with the person who requested it?”
So which training intake metrics deserve your attention? And what are the benefits to your training team? Here are eight metrics that you should be looking at and how you can use them.
Volume of requests
It might sound like a simple enough metric, but many L&D teams are not tracking the volume of training requests they receive. Then again, tracking training requests at all is difficult when they come in through informal channels:
“Our request intake is manual, so it just comes in through email or face-to-face. You put it in a spreadsheet to keep track of all.”
If you’re not tracking how many training requests you receive, how can you properly balance L&D resources against demand? The first thing you should do is redirect all such informal training requests to a formal, standardized training intake process so you can track all requests appropriately.
Once you’re tracking everything in a centralized spot, you’ll know the exact number of training requests you receive. The amount may surprise you.
Maybe you do track your training requests. But are you looking at the volume received versus how many are actually moved forward to course design?
Acceptance rate expressed as a percentage can give you a quick snapshot of how well you’re keeping up with demand before digging deeper into training intake metrics.
A low acceptance rate can mean several things:
- L&D needs extra resources to keep up with demand
- Employees have misunderstood the role of L&D in the organization. They’re requesting training when trying to address performance management problems, so a high volume of training requests are invalid.
- The marketing of existing course material and resources internally is not sufficient, so employees’ first instinct is to request training rather than seeing if it is already available.
Similarly, try tracking the rejection rate of training requests. A high rejection rate means your training department is spending a lot of their precious time on processing and declining requests rather than course design.
What is equally essential when it comes to rejecting training requests is the reason for rejection. Choose some standardized terms to explain why training requests get rejected, such as:
- Not enough resources
- Training already exists
- Not a training issue
- Not aligned with organizational strategy
Whether it’s in a spreadsheet or elsewhere, assign a reason for rejection to every training request that does not get brought forward for course development. When it comes to assessing your learning programs and training development strategy, you’ll have a much better picture of what’s going on between employees and the training department.
Requests by business function
Who is demanding the most amount of time and attention from L&D? And who is being left to flounder without any new training initiatives?
“I would love our request process to be more formal because we don’t have a lot of data on them. We don’t have data on how many sales training requests we get, how many I.T. requests we get. So I really have no reporting under the current process.”
Adding “business function” to the information you track when accepting or rejecting training requests can help you gain an overall picture of what training looks like across the organization.
Are you focusing on training that will impact business performance and the bottom line? Or do you only provide training for the departments that shout the loudest? Just because a particular department doesn’t ask for training doesn’t mean they don’t need it. Or that there isn’t an opportunity for huge performance improvement.
Similarly, an overrepresentation of a particular business function in training request volume may need a different type of attention. That’s where looking at the rejected rate, and filtering by business function can come into play.
If a specific team or department is continuously requesting training that is being rejected, what is the underlying cause? Perhaps the answer isn’t training, but things like job aids, peer-to-peer mentorship, better marketing of existing training resources, or a push for line managers to examine performance management issues.
Line of business
If it’s relevant to your organization, tracking “Line of Business” is useful for aligning training requests and projects to revenue drivers.
With L&D pushing to further prove their impact on bottom-line results, Line of Business (LoB) can show executive management where L&D really pushes the needle by identifying the revenue streams where training has made a direct impact.
This metric is especially useful if you can link fulfilled training requests for specific LoBs to measurable performance improvements.
Requests by topic
“There’s not a whole lot of tracking, which is one of the challenges we have because, at the end of the year, it’s like, OK, what did we work on again?”
This metric can help you analyze what’s happening on a granular level with a particular team, department, business function, or line of business.
For example, you may receive a large number of training requests from the Sales team. Of those requests, you realize that 50% are related to technical product information. How many of those were accepted or rejected throughout the year? Are other business functions struggling with the same topic?
Knowing exactly what employees are struggling with can help inform strategic decisions about which areas of your learning program need prioritization for further development. Tracking training requests by topic and acceptance rate can also help to give you a better picture of what you have worked on the past year and how performance has improved because of your training programs.
“It’s really manual, and it’s really just conversations. Our biggest pain point is that requests come in as “urgent,” and we don’t have enough time to plan. We’re a very small training team, so when urgent stuff comes up, it’s hard for us to plan and shuffle resources.”
In today’s fast-paced business world, everything is urgent, and that goes for training requests, too. Asking requesters to assign a prioritization level is useful. But, predictably, you’ll end up with the majority of training requests marked “urgent.”
However, once you’ve accepted and prioritized a training request, you should record its correct priority level for future reference.
A clearly labeled prioritization system is useful for assessing the true demand for training. Are people just firing off training requests as something comes up? Or are they submitting requests to solve high-priority, long term skill gaps?
You’ll be able to make judgments about the demand for training and whether your processes need to be more agile to keep up with urgent requests.
Resources required per request
During the analysis phase of training intake, it’s possible to get an initial idea of what resources will be needed to design a new course and fulfill the request.
A useful metric to take note of here is the estimated hours of development required for a new course. For some requests, you may just be updating an existing course. But it’s advisable to record the development hours this will require as well.
When analyzed against the other metrics you capture, “resources required” will help you plan ahead for course development. How you record resources required will vary depending on the way your training team and course development process is set up.
To get a real insight into resources required, you might record one or a combination of metrics such as:
- Predicted development hours
- External content development cost
- Number of internal SME participants
- External course provider cost
Demand vs capacity
Once you’ve established the resources needed per request, you can start to measure this against the existing capacity of the department. This metric will tell you which requests can realistically be fulfilled based on the available resources.
When it comes to fighting for increased headcount, contractors, or new technology to streamline processes, these are the metrics to show your execs.
Here is a basic example of how your demand Vs. capacity can be recorded:
|Active FTEs (headcount)||37.63||36||-1.63|
|Period Capacity (hours)||14,677||14,040||-637|
How to use your training intake metrics:
Whether you’re using a spreadsheet or another tool, it can feel a little time consuming to capture all that information for each training request. But you’ll thank yourself later on. Here are just some of the ways having those insights can generate value for the L&D team:
Many training departments are working with a constant rotation of contractors, freelance designers, and other learning development roles. But when you can analyze your past training intake metrics, it becomes much easier to plan for the future and assign expected resources to specific upcoming training projects.
Training request prioritization
Prioritizing training requests is a process that can take a little bit of refining at first. But your training intake analytics can help you work it out over time.
By looking back over different metrics, you may notice that a particular department has been neglected compared to others when it comes to getting their training requests accepted.
Justifying budget/resource increases
When approaching executive management for more budget or resources, the first thing they will want to know is how these increased resources for L&D will help to improve performance and achieve organizational goals.
Having training intake metrics ready to go means you can show concrete figures about the internal demand for training and the gap between demand, current resources, and potential performance improvement as a result of those increased resources.
Want to learn more about the strategic value of a standardized approach to training requests? Check out this free ebook!