Recently, I read the Chief Learning Officer article, “Weighing the Options: Different Schools of Thought.” The writer describes Kirkpatrick’s Levels and draws the same conclusion everyone in the training profession has drawn: Measuring Levels 1 and 2, we’ve got down. Levels 3 and 4 still need work because we’re not getting there with our current actions.
As I’ve said on this blog before, measurement of Levels 1 and 2 is ubiquitous because it’s easy. You ask a recently trained student if they liked the course, the instructor, and if they think the training will be helpful on the job. That’s all opinion-based and is very easy for a student to answer. It’s also very easy to be misled by that information into thinking training has been successful and will have a positive impact on the business.
Behavior + Results
What I’ve been saying, and the point the above article makes, is that Levels 3 and 4 need our attention. Not only do they need attention, but businesses are requiring learning professionals to give them attention. Businesses want to know that their training dollars have an impact and aren’t just being blown out the window.
In the article, Levels 3 and 4 measurements refer to return on expectations (ROE) or the more familiar term return on investment (ROI). In the article, ROE represents the expected outcome and the ROI represents the dollar value tied to that outcome. The article discusses the two as if they are separate. I don’t agree. ROE and ROI go hand in hand. If the outcome you expect is the outcome you get then, if you’ve managed the training development process correctly, the result should be a measurable ROI.
Is ROI the Wrong Focus?
Some argue that putting a dollar value on training is not possible or that it puts the wrong thing (money) into focus. In business, money is the wrong focus? I’m fairly certain most businesses are started to be profitable. Why is there a disconnect between other business functions (sales, marketing) and the training function when it comes to money?
The biggest argument seems to be that a focus on ROI takes the focus off of employees and off of their needs and development. I disagree. Employees want to be successful. They want to do a good job for their company. If training helps them do that (and helps the company succeed as well), they feel a positive connection between their contribution and their company’s success. Again, I just don’t understand why some see tying ROI to training value as so nerve-wracking.
Do you think linking training to ROI is a good idea or places the training focus in the wrong area? Why? Please tell me in the comments. I’d love to know your thoughts.
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