Measuring the ROI of informal learning: can it be done?

Now you know how you can measure the ROI of formal training. But how can you measure the effect of informal learning? That seems very tricky. But it pays to calculate how much value informal learning creates for your organisation. If you add performance goals to your learning strategy you can start measuring!

Many organisations are not, or not yet, measuring the return on investment of learning and online learning. And if they do, then they only measure learner satisfaction. This is level 1 of Kirkpatrick’s Pyramid of Learning and Performing. If companies are finding it difficult to measure the effect of formal learning, then it is quite often the case that they simply don’t know how to measure the effect of informal learning. But actually, it’s not that difficult.

Informal learning is important

Learning specialists know how important informal learning is. The learning retention levels of classroom training are low. Research shows that course participants quickly forget up to 90% of the training course. For online learning, retention levels are higher, but still. Real learning only takes place in real situations in the workplace itself.

That’s why the 70:20:10 principle is so important. Very briefly, this principle means that you learn most by doing something in real situations: 70%. And you learn 20% from colleagues and your network and 10% from training courses. No matter what you offer in terms of training, it is in real situations at work when people learn most. This means that organisations need to be aware of this and facilitate informal learning within the company

Blended learning

Having said that, it remains essential to offer formal training courses. Formal learning frameworks are crucial to encourage and manage learning developments within the organisation. And it’s absolutely fine to spend a bit more than 10% of your time on formal learning.

Encouraging informal learning within your organisation is a good idea. We at TinQwise would you like advise you about blended learning. It’s a combination of formal training and learning on the job. These two types of learning reinforce each other and are in line with each other. We also blend the formats: you will learn online and offline.

ROI van informeel leren

4 steps to measuring the ROI of informal learning

Let’s look at measuring the ROI of informal learning. How do you know what value it creates? The Brandon Hall Group investigated this in 2015.

Step 1. The basics
Measure things such as how many people took part in the learning programme, which tools they used, did they find it useful and fun, how did they perform during assignments & assessments after the learning programme?

Step 2. Measuring performance
Are employees better at their job after completing the learning programme? Are they faster and better at their job now that the organisation is encouraging and facilitating informal learning?

Step 3. Specific metrics for informal learning
There are specific aspects that you can measure for informal learning. For example: Which learners are most actively taking part? Why? Who do learners turn to most often within the organisation? Which content is shared most? What kind of information are employees looking for? How many hours of training do employees receive per year? These metrics give the company a clear insight into how staff uses informal tools to learn and how effective they are in doing so.

Step 4. Linking learning to company goals
If you don’t have a measuring system for formal learning yet, please make sure you put that in place first. Think about linking performance indicators to company goals. For example, do you have a grip on how learning occurs within your organisation? What is the 70:20:10 ratio in your company and how about offline and online learning? How many hours of learning are staff getting per year? Are you linking the learning goals of an employee to their individual performance? Are you linking learning opportunities within the organisation to overall productivity?

Learning as a strategy

When staff are learning faster and better, this is not only reflected in your company’s performance, but also in the individual performance of your staff and ultimately in the company’s figures. If you introduce learning as a strategy and if you measure the effect of learning, you can make sure that your organisation performs better.

What can TinQwise do for you?

It is important that employees learn as much as possible in real situations at work. This means that coaching and supervision should happen mostly in the workplace. We know that colleagues, social networks and managers are extremely important for learning to be successful – within the 70:20:10 philosophy. TinQwise supports you in this entire learning process. We also look at how formal and informal learning can help to bring about behavioural change and behavioural confirmation in the longer term.

Would you like to share ideas with us? Please contact Oscar van der Horst, account manager. Email:, Tel: 06 86 810192.

Find out more?

Measuring the ROI of informal learning, Brandon Hall Group en Docebo, 2015.