A Guide to Assessing Frontline Employee Learning Performance

A Guide to Assessing Frontline Employee Learning Performance

07 October 2021

Training & learning

Would you invest $5,000 into stocks and then never bother checking up on how they’re doing?

If this sounds like a terrible strategy, you’ll be surprised to find out how common it is for organizations to do this when it comes to a different type of investment - investment in employee learning performance.

Businesses need to know whether the investments they’re making are paying off, and this includes investment in employees, but many are failing to measure the impact of learning effectively.


What does ‘learning performance’ actually mean? 

‘Learning performance’ is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of things, including:

  • The extent to which training is actually helping employees to learn
  • The impact learning has on business performance 
  • How well employees apply what they’ve learned to their performance on the job
  • Employee perception of learning and how confident they are in performing their responsibilities accurately 

Related: Confidence-Based Learning: What It Is and Why Your Frontline Employees Need It

Frontline employee learning performance impacts a range of aspects of your business, including:

  • Sales 
  • Revenue 
  • Quality 
  • Health and safety 
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Retention
  • Profitability 


How can organizations assess learning performance?

Will Thalheimer devised the Learning Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM) in 2018 as a framework to help organizations to better assess continuous learning. The model breaks down employee engagement with learning into eight levels:

Level 1: Attendance - The learner has taken part in and completed the learning activity. 

Level 2: Activity - The learner takes part in the learning activity, pays attention, shows interest and participates. 

Level 3: Learner perceptions - The learner shares feedback on the learning experience.

Level 4: Knowledge - The learner is tested on how well they can recall knowledge and facts. 


According to Thalheimer, these first four levels are not adequate measures of learning performance, as even if a learner can recall information from the training, this is not evidence that they can apply it to their work.


Level 5: Decision-making competence - This might involve asking learners to engage with realistic scenarios and to make decisions based on knowledge they have gained from learning. 

Level 6: Task competence - This level involves combining decision-making with taking action in the form of workplace tasks.


These levels should ideally be completed a few days after the training to test whether information has been committed to learners’ long-term memory.


Level 7: Transfer - At this stage, the learner demonstrates improved competence in the workplace by better performing an activity as a result of the training. This can either take the form of ‘supported transfer’ (where a manager or team leader encourages the learner to apply the learning) or ‘complete transfer’ (where the learner independently demonstrates a new behaviour).

Level 8: Effects of the transfer - This level looks at the effect of the learning transfer on the learners, their colleagues, the organisation, the community, society and the environment. This demonstrates the full impact of the learning.

Organizations can use this model to establish on which level they currently measure learning performance and how they can improve assessment.


Steps for taking assessment to the next level:

Step 1 - Decide what you want to improve within your organization. use this to decide which areas of learning to assess

Do you want to improve sales, employee product knowledge, customer service ratings, or something else? Effective learning should create an improvement, so work out where this needs to happen. 

What are the things your employees need to do perfectly every day on the job to improve business performance in the areas you’ve identified above? (E.g knowing the differentiators, stories and values of the brands you stock in-store). This will establish what changes in behaviour you need to see to demonstrate that the learning is working.

Related: Webinar On-Demand: How to Effectively Train and Motivate Frontline Employees

Step 2 - Establish the most important information employees need to learn and how to assess this

Decide how to quantitatively measure these behaviour changes for every employee as they learn. Decide what information you need to assess them on, this should be comprised of the most crucial information they need to take away from the training. Use engaging assessment formats like quizzes, battles and games to assess memory retention.

It’s important to use spaced repetition and assess learners on the same knowledge at intervals a few days or weeks apart to ensure knowledge is retained.

Step 3 - Track learning metrics to measure how much employees are actually learning 

Look at how employees are engaging with assessments, this can involve reviewing quiz completion rates or looking at heat maps to see which assessment questions are often answered incorrectly.

You could also look at which employees are most actively learning, which courses are most popular with learners and employee retention rates.

Related: 7 Mobile Learning Metrics Every L&D Professional Should Be Tracking

Measuring these metrics in real-time allows an organization to be agile and make quick adjustments and improvements to training where needed.

Step 4 - Decide how to assess behaviour change

Work out the wider impact of training based on the metrics established in Step 1. For example, if the changed behaviour required was more in depth employee product knowledge, this could involve looking at customer satisfaction reviews. Or if it was employee health and safety awareness, it could involve looking at accident and near-miss report logs to see if more incidents are being avoided.

Step 5 - Correlate business and learning metrics 

This is the final step to understand how learning actually drives business performance. Aligning learning metrics with business metrics highlights the impact that learning is actually having. For example, comparing an increase in positive customer reviews vs sales per location.


Why bother with assessing frontline employee learning performance? 

This may seem like a lengthy process, but it’s entirely necessary. Assessing frontline employee learning performance enables organizations to:

  • Justify previous investments and build a business case for future investments in training and learning
  • Provide employees with the learning which best benefits them
  • Identify high performing teams and candidates for promotion
  • Continuously improve as an organization

To find more about practical strategies for boosting the impact of employee learning, watch a recording of our recent webinar: 'How to Effectively Train and Motivate Frontline Employees'  here!

A Guide to Assessing Frontline Employee Learning Performance