How to measure the effectiveness and impact of learning

This was originally an article in Dutch, written by Dimitri Dewever for BusinessXperts (supplement of leading Belgian economic newspaper ‘De Tijd’).

Training in companies costs a lot of time and money. But what’s the true value of these programs? The Belgian-American company Onsophic measures and analyzes the effectiveness of training and makes adjustments where necessary.

Silicon Valley, 2014. Tom Pennings, together with Ian Hart (former Senior Director at Apple), launches Onsophic. Their mission: measuring the effectiveness and impact of learning. Today, with their tailor-made online software product, they serve dozens of large organizations from their offices in the US, Belgium, and, in the near future, also Singapore. In Belgium, customers include KBC, Randstad, KU Leuven and iMinds.

“Managers can easily intervene if they see that person X doesn’t do
anything with the recommendations of our system.”

Our approach is unique, explains Tom Pennings, CEO and co-founder of Onsophic. “We move company training out of its silo. This is necessary because most organizations seldom know whether their training is effective. At best they measure how many staff members participate in a particular training and how far they have clicked through in a course – which is close to useless data. We link training courses directly to how the learners perform. We measure their new knowledge on-the-job.”

After or during a training event, Onsophic continuously performs measurements in various business systems that staff members use on a daily basis. This way, they provide insights on how well the employees apply the newly acquired processes, business rules, and services. This can be done via simulations or directly in the workplace. “Our software is integrated into existing software packages such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, customer feedback systems (NPS, Cx), ERPs, Drupal, Office 365. In short: we integrate our solution into the software that employees and management use every day. Everything runs in the background, without the user experiencing any inconvenience or delay.”

Automated individual guidance

Each learner automatically receives individual feedback via the system. Because it is based on the application of new skills while they are working, employees immediately know in which domains they need extra training, what they can improve and how they can achieve it. Tom Pennings: “Because of our solution, companies no longer need personal coaches to take surveys from course participants, ask questions or give personal recommendations.”

“Suppose a company rolls out a training course to increase customer centricity. Then our system immediately sees for each staff member what he or she is lacking or doing incorrectly in the workplace. Which files have they been slow to follow-up on. Which new guidelines did not get applied accurately enough. Which product have they not fully understood and so on. Every employee also receives emails or smartphone messages with personal guidance in the form of text, video clips or excerpts from the course. But the collected user data remains, of course protected and personal to the employee.”

Management has more time available

As a consequence, employees get more freedom. They can fill in their knowledge gaps themselves and determine objectives and challenges on an individual basis. This also gives managers more time, as no processes have to be set up to ensure follow-up of the training since everything is done automatically.

“Managers can request how often our system tried to help the employees” explains Pennings. “But they do not see exactly where – partly because of the GDPR privacy legislation. They can still intervene when they see that our system, for example, tried to help person X ten times, but that he or she has done nothing with those recommendations. Then, of course, it will become a management issue.”

The Onsophic solution fits in perfectly with the latest trends in the education and training market. Training becomes more personal, is increasingly based on data and focused on micro-learning. “All of that is fully reflected in our software. Because our system measures the effectiveness and speed with which new knowledge is applied, it is also easy for companies to calculate their return on investment. And that is rarely the case with traditionally organized training courses.”


Because the software has to be adapted for every company and for every training, correct deployment can be quite complex. Tom Pennings: “The content is delivered by the customer, but we, of course, give recommendations on how everything can be organized as optimally as possible. The trick is to know exactly what needs to be measured, how to convert those measurements into useful feedback and how you can successfully translate new processes or objectives into practice.”

This method is certainly not suitable for all training courses. “I consider our solution to be change management software that focuses on training in large organizations. There needs to be at least some kind of change for a company. Whether this is a problem they want to solve or a need they want to satisfy. We then optimize, accelerate and make the learning process more efficient by using our measurements, analyses, and personal feedback. Our system runs continuously where necessary. In this way “lifelong learning” and “getting better at your job” do not remain abstract concepts, but are turned into practice”, concludes Tom Pennings.