When it comes to L&D budgets, the biggest question from business leaders is, “How are we going to measure impact?”

It’s such an easy question for stakeholders to ask and, on the surface, is a smart one. 

Particularly in today’s climate, leadership teams are seeking as much certainty as possible.

How do you feel about your current answer?

If you’re like most of the L&D professionals we speak with, clarity on the “how” of impact measurement is a bit of a tap dance to answer; usually including examples of past success and testimonials.

But one of the core challenges with “the ROI question” is that most leadership teams aren’t clear on what they even want as an answer. They know they should ask the question. Certainly, they’d like to de-risk their investment (understandably), but if you ask them how THEY would like to measure impact, they often don’t know.

Which leads to a bit of an awkward conversation.

So let’s avoid that.

In the face of this challenging question from business leaders, I find it helpful to use the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model as a backdrop for finding a SHARED understanding of how impact will be measured on this program, for this client.

There are five levels to the model, each with a different question to answer in order to “measure impact”:

Level 1: Participant Satisfaction

Did they like the session? What resonated most? 

Level 2: Knowledge Retention

Did they remember the key messages from the session?

Level 3: Behavior Change

Have they applied anything from the session? Has it created lasting change?

Level 4: Business Impact

Have the changes they’ve applied from the session noticeably improved the business metrics we intended?

Level 5: ROI

Can we quantify the financial impact of those improved business metrics?


Sharing this simplified version of the Kirkpatrick-Phillips model with your prospective sponsor (and then asking which level they’d like to measure on) is a quick and powerful alignment exercise.

At least now, you both have a shared understanding of what “measuring impact” means for this project.

And, as importantly, you can have a conversation about what will be required – for both parties – in order to measure at that level.

Which level are you measuring to, currently?


Here at Actionable, we help outcome-oriented L&D professionals deliver Impact Certainty for their organizations. If you’d like to be able to guarantee demonstrable impact for your stakeholders, we’d love to show you how we can help make that happen. Book a no risk, 20 minute discovery call to learn more.