How to make sure you get impact from learning projects

What’s the impact going to be?

In this blog, the third in our “content-last” series, we’ll focus on making sure that your learning programme has as much impact on your business as possible. This means differentiating between learning results and the impact of the learning.

All learning programmes cost money. They cost money in terms of the direct cost of producing them, as well as the wage cost and opportunity cost that occurs every time any learner takes time out of their working day to participate in the programme.

So, how is the learning programme going to pay for itself? This is its impact and it’s essential that – as is the case with any project – it’s larger than its cost. We could define impact like this:


Impact is the positive difference that the programme will make to the business.


Results, on the other hand, are the new skills and knowledge that learners get from participating in a programme. We’ll talk more about skills and knowledge in the next blog.

So, in order to get a positive impact from any results, we have to make sure that the new skills and knowledge are the right ones. That is why we must always remember:


The goal of any learning programme is the impact, not the results.


Impact in practice

Let’s now look at this in practice with an example. Imagine that a company wants a learning programme related to its Code of Conduct. Like most CoCs, theirs has a section about bribery and corruption that states that the company has a zero tolerance approach to bribery. So, one of the goals of the programme is that learners are aware of this zero tolerance approach.

It’s quite clear though that this goal is based on a result – and actually a very specific piece of knowledge (“awareness” of the CoC section). If we wanted to achieve this goal, we simply need to tell learners that the section exists and then ask them with a check question if it exists. We could also go a bit deeper and check that learners know what bribery is and what zero tolerance really means and so on; however, these are still results though.

In reality, the goal of this part of the programme is that no learner will accept bribes, offer bribes or allow others to accept or offer bribes in real life, as well as the creation of a solid culture where these kinds of thing don’t happen. This is an example of impact.

Having this as the goal would force the company to really analyse when and where their people might unknowingly be breaking the Code of Conduct. The results of the programme would then be the skills to deal with these situations – i.e., how to avoid them and what to do if they occur.

Then, we could drill down from the more general skills to decide on the specific skills and facts that the programme would need to cover. We can call these the target skills and knowledge. It’s important to note here that, while impacts and results could be the same in two different companies or situations, the target skills and knowledge required will almost certainly not be. This is because these depend on the specific learner groups’ situations and current skill gaps. We’re going to look at this part in the next blog, so the example below just has placeholders.

So, to summarise this example we would have:

Impact: No learner will accept bribes, offer bribes or allow others to accept or offer bribes in real life

Results based on impact:

  1. Learners will be able to avoid getting into situations where bribery may occur
  2. Learners will be able to handle any bribery related situations
  3. Learners will report bribery

Target skills and knowledge based on results (more about what these would look like in the next blog):

  1. Specific skill A
  2. Piece of knowledge B
  3. Etc.

Even though choosing target skills and knowledge is part of the final blog post, it’s worth bringing them up here. This is because the target skills and knowledge are actually the content of the programme. This is the first time that we have discussed the actual content of a programme during this blog series and we’re on the 3rd blog.

This is why we like to call this process the content-last approach.

In the next blog, we need to bring the learners back into the picture, so that we can match the target skills and knowledge to actual skill and knowledge gaps.

More in this series

In our first blog post, we discussed why introducing an LX designer into your project early is a good idea.

In our second post, we focused on finding out about your learners’ real-life work situation and motivators.

In the fourth and final post, we will put everything together and decide on the specific skills and knowledge that your learners will need in order to make your learning programme a success.

Other related blogs

Stay tuned!