Author Profile Picture

Jackie Clifford

Clarity Learning and Development


Read more from Jackie Clifford

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Back to basics: Do your learning experiences make an impact?

In the final instalment of our back to basics series, TrainingZone columnist Jackie Clifford shares guidance on crafting learning experiences that genuinely make organisational impact.
drop, splash, impact - representing learning impact

In the previous article of this back-to-basics series, we considered how to create learning experiences that live on in the workplace

In the final part of the series (for now!) we’ll examine how we move from learning transfer to learning impact.

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of the seminal model that is Kirkpatrick’s levels of evaluation. This model tells us that, as L&D professionals, we should measure reaction, learning, behaviour and results and it encourages us to move beyond the ‘happy sheet’ to ensure that we can prove return on investment. This involves demonstrating that our learning experiences have resulted in behaviour change and have achieved the desired outcomes.

With this model in mind, one of the key principles of designing impactful learning experiences has got to be articulating the desired outcomes, not only in terms of what the individual will be able to do as a result of their learning, but also the impact that it will have. 

How do we achieve learning impact in practice?

The following flow of questions can help us to articulate the different levels of expected results:

Reaction level (response to the learning experience)

  1. How do we want participants to react to the learning experience?
  2. What elements of the reaction should we focus on?

Learning level (knowledge and skills acquisition)

  1. What specific knowledge or skills should participants gain from this training?
  2. What do the learners need to be able to do as a result of this experience?
  3. How will we know that learners have understood and retained their knowledge and skill?

Behaviour level (application and implementation)

  1. What changes in behaviour or practice are we expecting to see as a result of this learning experience?
  2. What will we see the learners doing differently when they are back in the workplace?

Results level (impact on organisational goals)

  1. Which of our team goals / objectives does this learning support?
  2. Which of our organisational goals / objectives does this learning feed into? 
  3. What impact do we expect learners to have on the achievement of team and organisational goals as a result of this learning experience? 

Once we have asked these questions during the design phase of the learning experience, we should keep the answers in mind throughout the delivery and follow-up.

Learning that impacts individuals, teams and organisations

To create learning that makes an impact at all levels, we must pay attention to how we facilitate our learners and our organisations to:

1. Create a learning mindset

This links through to the idea of a learning culture. It means that everyone in the organisation should be open and receptive to learning – and believe that it is possible. 

Let’s think about continuous improvement and consistently ask the question ‘how can we be even better at what we do?’ This question can be asked at all levels of the organisation.

2. Encourage collaboration and sharing

We’ve probably all heard a form of the saying ‘knowledge is power’. This statement encourages us to hold on to our knowledge so that we can hold on to our power. 

In today’s workplaces, we need to actively practise ways of working that support and promote the sharing of knowledge, skills and good practice.

One way of achieving this is having a section in every team meeting where sharing takes place. This could be takeaways from reading material, learning from dealing with problems or lessons learned from critical incident reviews. 

3. Maintain focus on the bigger picture

In many organisations, business goals and objectives are often still only referenced once or twice a year, during the performance review process. 

What if we could use the goals and objectives of the organisation as the compass that directs all our plans, decisions and actions? 

If we maintain a focus at the organisational level, we will be much more likely to be able to link the changes that we make as a result of any learning experience to the achievement of the organisational goals. 

4. Ensure that learning adds value at all levels

Linking back to the last point, if our learning interventions are clearly aligned with business needs, then we will be able to demonstrate that learning at an individual level has an ultimate impact at the organisational level. 

For example, a member of a data team learns to use the advanced functions of Microsoft Excel. As a result of using their new knowledge back at work, they are able to produce monthly reports for their internal clients more efficiently and effectively.

On receipt of the reports, the internal clients are able to make important business decisions more quickly. As a result of the rapid decision-making, new projects commence sooner and current projects are facilitated more swiftly. The ultimate impact is that invoices are raised and paid sooner which meets an organisational goal of improving cash flow. 

L&D basics are there for a reason

Learning will only be truly integrated into the daily life of our organisations if we can prove its impact.

We must ensure that the learning experiences we create are relevant, timely and effective.

We must define the required outcomes for individuals, teams and organisations and focus on working towards them.

And we must collect solid, valid and reliable evidence to demonstrate that the required outcomes have been achieved. 

Interested in this back-to-basics series?

Read part one: How to conduct a learning needs analysis in three steps

Read part two: How to leverage performance-focused learning

Read part three: How to create learning experiences that live on in the workplace

Author Profile Picture
Jackie Clifford


Read more from Jackie Clifford

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!