Identify Learning Performance Gaps to Link Corporate Training to ROI.

October 5, 2022

By: Megan Larkin

Reading Time: 3.1

Is your organization’s training meaningfully addressing key learning performance gaps?

Training expenditures rose 12% in 2020-21 making spending on corporate training in the US alone a whopping $92.3 billion annually. Yet most companies simply don’t bother to measure the impact of their training and, when they do, the training is evaluated based on factors like course completion and the satisfaction of the participants rather than in terms of business value (Mattson, 2000; ASTD, 2011).

Employee performance has a huge impact on business outcomes. Effective training targets the gap between the desired and actual level of performance. First, however, you have to identify where those performance gaps lie.

First Things First: Conduct a Needs Analysis

Linking your corporate training to ROI by conducting both front-end and post-training analyses utilizing *any* method will put you well ahead of most L&D departments. Different companies will undoubtedly find different frameworks for identifying and filling those gaps useful. Luckily there are a plethora of training evaluation models from which to choose – from Kirkpatrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model to the CIRO (Context, Input, Reaction, Outcome) Model to the ROI Model (Choudhury and Sharma, 2019).

If none of those names are ringing any bells and you’re unsure how to even start identifying performance gaps, Joe Harless’ tried and true 1973 13 point questionnaire is a great place to start (Harless, 1973). After all, there’s no better way to get negative ROI on your L&D than training your employees in the wrong areas.

The Harless Framework for Front End Needs Analysis

  • Do we have a problem? Based on what evidence?
  • Do we have a performance problem?
  • How will we know when the problem is solved?
  • What is the performance problem?
  • Should we allocate resources to solve the problem?
  • Do the benefits of solving this problem outweigh the cost?
  • What are the possible causes of the problem?
  • What evidence bears on each possibility?
  • What is the probable cause of the problem?
  • What general solution type is indicated?
  • What are the alternate subclasses of the solution?
  • What are the costs, effects, and development times of each solution?
  • What are the constraints?
  • What are the overall goals?

Conducting this simple front-end analysis enables you to identify and target learning performance gaps, create metrics to track ROI on your training, and set your organization up to use training data to continuously improve your courses, L&D, and business outcomes.

Clarity on Learning Performance Gaps = Maximizing Training ROI

The next step to really supercharging the business impact of your corporate training is making sure the training itself is top-notch by leveraging data from across your training platforms and tracking the measurable objectives you created during your needs analysis. You can then conduct real-time and post-course analyses creating a feedback cycle that allows for continuous improvement.

Identifying learning performance gaps and effectively bridging them by maximizing ROI on your corporate training is a crucial component of making a meaningful investment in your people. There are many needs analysis and training evaluation metrics to choose from. The vital and often overlooked first step is picking one and executing on it.

Want to learn more about establishing a clear link between ROI and L&D for your company? Schedule a meeting with our e-learning experts. IntelliBoard is Learning Analytics for EVERYONE.


  • ASTD (2011).  Overcome the three toughest challenges to an ROI study. ASTD International
  • Conference and Exposition. Available at
  • Choudhury, G.B. and Sharma, V. (2019). Review and comparison of various training effectiveness evaluation models for R & D Organization performance; PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue II (February)
  • Harless, J. H. (1973). An analysis of front-end analysis. Improving Human Performance, 2, 229-244.
  • Mattson, B.W.  (2000).  Development and validation of the critical outcome technique.
  • Human Resource Development International. Volume 3 (4). p. 465-487.

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Megan Larkin

Megan Larkin is an advocate and writer with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and has extensive experience in the public education ecosystem. Her mission in life is creating tools so that all kids have access to high quality, easy to use EdTech and digital learning.


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