Training ROI Is A Struggle But Shouldn’t Be

Training ROI is not a dream. You can measure training impact.
Training ROI is not a dream. You can measure training impact.

Do you believe training measurement is an illusion? Do you think measuring training impact is a too hard? According to a recent Chief Learning Officer web site article, many of you do. Josh Bersin lists the problems training pros have with training measurement and training ROI.

These problems can be overcome. Hopefully this post will give you clues about how that is done.

Can You Measure Training Impact?

In the article, Bersin says he is updating his 2008 book, The Training Measurement Book. In doing so, he found this:

Less than half the companies we surveyed measure informal learning, and about 20 to 30 percent measure usage of videos, self-study materials and communities of practice. About 97 percent measure classroom training and 72 percent measure e-learning…The No. 1 challenge they still cite is “inability to understand business impact of learning.”

That challenge is the key. Without these type of measures, you can’t know training impact. We know that, without training ROI, you will never be viewed as a business partner. Without measurement, you have no idea if your training programs work or not.

As trainers, our challenge is to know and communicate our value in terms that businesses understand. We have to know how to connect training programs to business results. It all comes down to creating measurable training that can reflect training ROI.

Measuring Training Is A Business and Design Problem

I agree with some of Bersin’s statements in his article. For instance, he says measuring training isn’t a technical problem. Rather, it is a business and design problem. I agree. My research and work at eParamus shows the same. The correct training design process is the solution to the business problem.

Here is where Bersin and I differ. He says not to try to measure training ROI. He says that all training has positive ROI and that too many other factors impact measurement.

I disagree. If you fix the design problem, you fix the business problem and then you solve the training ROI problem. In no uncertain terms, you can compute training ROI. You can easily measure training impact. I outline the process in my book, ROI By Design. Many believe that finding training ROI is complex. It doesn’t have to be. You can easily prove training ROI with the right training design process. This process is simple, but does require upfront work.

Business Problems to Overcome

So what are a few of the business and design problems we need to overcome?

  • Using the same terms as the business to speak about the performance needed.
  • Finding the right metric to measure performance.
  • Ensuring the training design will impact the metric.
  • Measuring learning at all impact points.
  • Mapping learning to training ROI.

Too often, as training professionals, we talk about content while the business talks about performance. We must bridge the gap in the language we use. If we don’t, then we miss what the business ultimately needs the training result to be. This lack of clarity leaves everyone frustrated and confused. Poor, ineffective training is the result.

Next, training ROI is tied to business metrics. What exactly do you want the training to change or fix? What business indicators revealed that there was a problem? How can you impact those indicators to determine the success of your training? This is a central component as you begin to design a training program. Trainers and the business must work in tandem to find the right metric to measure.

What training is needed to change the metric? Answering that question alone sets the right design plan in motion.

You must have a tool that measures learning. Measure before and after training. Capture the results. Measure again on the job at a later date to see what the learner retained. These measures will prove the impact.

Finally, you can map your learning impact to training ROI if you have the right information in place. For example, some business know that if they can process 5 more calls per hour per customer service rep, they will make $X more per call. If your business has financial baselines in place, then figuring training ROI can be simple.

Read More About Training ROI

All of the above is a simplistic description. Far more detail can be found in my book, ROI By Design. You can also find many details on my blog. These links show you some of the steps and tools needed for training ROI.

What do you think? Do you think finding training ROI is possible? Please tell us in the comments.