Why Your Learning Measurement Strategy Should Include the Ultimate Question

Written by Michael Black, Customer Success Manager for Higher Education, Explorance.

Net Promoter Score – What is NPS?

Even if you have not heard of the metric by name, you have likely been asked some variation of the following question: “How likely are you to refer our product/service to a friend or colleague?” Initially developed for customer-facing business units, L&D departments around the world have adopted the metric to understand a learner’s perspective on the value of training. However, there are limits to what NPS can tell us on its own.

One of the strongest benefits of NPS is that it is calculated the same way, every time. Regardless of its function, it is a standardized score that can be used across different areas of training and can be easily understood by various stakeholders. This also means that the metric is easily benchmarked across various industries, regions, learning modalities, and course types for further analysis. The following image breaks down how the metric is measured and calculated for corporate training.

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Leveraging the metric for L&D

Dubbed “the ultimate question” by its founder Bain’s Fred Reichheld, NPS can be leveraged beyond measuring satisfaction or willingness to offer a referral at a given point in time. First, consider the metric on its own. Whether we are looking at the score for one particular training session or an entire curriculum of training offerings, Explorance research informs us that NPS is a strong indicator of satisfaction and learning.

If you are curious to read more about Explorance’s research into the where NPS fits into a science-based measurement strategy, download the Predictive Learning Impact Model 2.0 white paper.

As a standalone metric, NPS also acts as a starting point for ad-hoc analysis into what learners deem ‘worthwhile.’ If an employee is a Detractor for a recent training session, the rest of their feedback is critical to understand where else the training lagged (i.e., instructor performance, course materials, training environment, etc.). On the other hand, a Promoter’s feedback could be used to understand what went right. That same Promoter feedback can be leveraged to improve other training programs that are underperforming.

Reichheld’s declaration that NPS is the “ultimate question” may hold true across many industries, but L&D should not focus solely on Net Promoter Score. While satisfaction with training and learning outcomes are vital for L&D to understand, there is so much more that an effective, comprehensive learning measurement strategy needs to include. Stakeholders within the business do not only care about satisfaction and learning, but they also want to understand how training is being applied back to the job, and if training is a worthwhile investment for the business.

The true measurement value for L&D is amplified when NPS is leveraged alongside additional key metrics, such as Scrap Learning or Estimated Performance Improvement (EPI). All three of these metrics tell a strong story on their own, but when they are considered in aggregate, they can identify gaps and shorten the time to make impactful improvements. For instance, a Training Director responsible for Field Technicians may see low EPI for a given training session, but a high NPS. This would indicate that although the employees do not foresee a notable benefit back to their own performance as a result of the training, there were clear aspects of the training that they learned from and made it a worthwhile experience. While the low EPI metric highlights a need to make improvements to the class in order to make the material more salient and applicable, the high NPS alerts the Training Director that there were aspects of the training that were deemed successful and satisfying. Parsing out the aspects that contribute to low EPI vs. those that contribute to high NPS is a great way for that Training Director to understand what is happening in this course truly.

NPS is a simple metric to implement that can provide insights around satisfaction, learning effectiveness, and hint at the overall value of training from the learner’s perspective – all from one number! That one number tells us a lot, but we should be mindful not to allow one number or metric to sway important business decisions.


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