What’s the Difference between Analytics and KPIs? [Ask the Expert]

Key performance indicators, or KPIs, are a specialized category of analytics results, characterized mostly by their importance and meaning to stakeholders. But oftentimes, the terms KPIs and analytics are used interchangeably, which could confuse your audience, or change your sentiment altogether.

In this blog post, we'll explain the differences between analytics and KPIs, compare learning KPIs to business KPIs, and apply all of the above to the world of learning and development.

What are the differences between KPIs and analytics?

KPIs are performance metrics that tell you if organizational goals are being met, while other analytics might tell you what’s driving that performance.

For example, perhaps the trend of scores on an onboarding pre-assessment is simply another analytics result, while the percentage of employees compliant with your security awareness course is a KPI. The only difference between these is the level of importance and meaning bestowed on the latter.

Typically, this importance on a particular metric is for good reason. Logic and experience inform stakeholders as to those results that best inform ongoing decisions to be made. For instance, an organization with a KPI around sales results is almost certainly basing forward guidance, personnel decisions, or training programs according to the ongoing, changing value of this indicator.

How do people misuse “analytics” when they really mean “KPIs”?

Einstein said, “not everything that can be counted counts.” There’s more to the quote, but that first part stands well on its own. If your team has 50 different KPIs, it’s arguable that none of them are actually differentiated as key indicators.

Rather, you just have a lot of analytics results, which may all have varied importance and meaning. But KPIs are intended to be uniquely significant and summarizing.

How can analytics and KPIs be used together?

KPIs are usually backed up by other analytics results. A number of secondary figures or details are necessary to explain the unexpected values or changes in a KPI.

For example, understanding a spike in sales results will likely require insight into a number of other metrics—including sales by product, sales by division, call volume, or staffing levels. Without these additional metrics, a KPI will quickly lose its meaning, as the value bounces around while being misunderstood.

What’s the difference between learning KPIs and business KPIs?

Learnings KPIs are a specialized category of KPIs. As such, they have the same conceptual grounding of all key performance indicators—namely that they are imbued with a certain level of importance and meaning.

But learning KPIs are a family of indicators specific to the learning domain. They will depend on what matters most to your organization. For instance, typical types of learning KPIs include things such as length of onboarding, time to competency, compliance rate, knowledge retention, skill levels, credentials, learning resource utilization, and learning pathways, among others.

How can you connect learning analytics with business KPIs?

The line between learning KPIs and business KPIs—which often indicates where learning should be having an impact on performance—can get blurry.

For example, an L&D team in charge of customer service training may decide that the CSAT scores of their learners is the most meaningful indicator of success for the programs they design. The learning materials and learning programs for the customer service reps will have a major impact on their performance, but other factors may influence them as well.

In this case, L&D must collaborate with customer service leadership to help drive success together. Thus, the connection between learning and business KPIs also represents an opportunity for connecting learning and business teams.

Want to create baselines for your own L&D programs?

In this real-world example, see how one L&D team uses performance metrics scores to create learning benchmarks.

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eGuide: 5 Steps to Getting Started with Learning Analytics

Now that you understand the basics of analyzing learning experiences, it's time to start applying them in your own learning program. And it's easier than you might think. In fact, there’s a lot you can do with simple metrics and the data you have right now. We've also created the following guide to help you get started right now!

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