We often hear it said these days that the most successful companies pay a lot of attention to data. Data about everything. But you might be surprised to learn that the data highly successful companies pay attention to includes learning and development (L&D). They do this to measure the business benefit of L&D and to be able to optimize the results they get from individual L&D expenditures.

Until now, there has been little information to guide managers in every company about how to do this. Gene Pease, Barbara (Bonnie) Beresford, and Lew Walker have written the book that fills this need.

Beyond ROI

Developing Human Capital is not a book about return on investment (ROI), although ROI is important and it is part of the approach the authors use on the way to showing the reader how to optimize L&D investments through analytics. The objective is not to look backward, but to ensure that human capital dollars are well spent. Developing Human Capital explores learning and development from a data-driven, analytical standpoint, and it does an extremely thorough job of it.

I have never seen a presentation or discussion of analytics applied to L&D as complete as what the authors provide here. In nine chapters and seven appendices, Developing Human Capital steps the reader through the continuum of human capital analytics, including methodology, tools and technology, case studies, and advice. This is not theory. It is solid, sound practice that has been shown to be effective.

An outstanding team of authors

In the foreword, Thomas H. Davenport, fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business and co-founder and director of research at International Institute for Analytics, says, “As I read the book, it seemed highly likely that corporate learning would have a much more analytical future.” Gene Pease and his co-authors are well-qualified to advise L&D managers on the details of how to apply analytics to learning and how to be ahead of that trend. Pease is a pioneer in the field of workforce optimization. Beresford is an industry-recognized human capital strategist and performance consultant with over 20 years of experience in the field of human performance improvement. Walker has had a very successful career in the disciplines of human resources, serving in many vice-president roles at AT&T and SBC Wireless.

Making L&D strategic

At the conclusion of the book, the authors state:

  • If you are able to calculate an isolated ROI, you will be armed with powerful justification at budget time. However, going beyond ROI is where the richness of measurement really kicks in—when you start using measurement to improve, and not just to prove. This strategic shift means moving into the world of optimization through predictive analytics. This is where you will find the deep insights that will prepare you to rise to the performance and development challenges presented by the changing workforce. This powerful data science will radically change the way you plan and deploy learning programs.

I join the authors in urging you to begin developing your L&D measurement map, to align and map your learning investments to business outcomes, and to measure their impact and identify opportunities for optimization. Doing so could well be the most strategic decision you will make in your career.


Pease, Gene, Barbara Beresford, and Lew Walker. Developing Human Capital: Using Analytics to Plan and Optimize Your Learning and Development Investments. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2014.