Ensuring the Positive ROI of Training and Development

Peggy Morrow

Training, Development and ROI

It used to be that training didn’t matter that much. It was just "a good thing to do." But with the increased concern about the economy and the need to control expenses, many organizations are looking at their training and education budgets to make sure they are yielding a positive ROI.

Times have changed. In order to make training and development have a positive impact on the bottom line, there must be methods in place for trainees to adopt the new behaviors taught in the course. In my 26 years in the training and development business, I have found companies to be woefully deficient in linking training and development to the organization’s overall business goals. In short, most companies are wasting their training dollars.


Training is a Process, Not an Event

Training and development should be all about getting behavior change that enhances the bottom line and therefore results in a strong return on investment of your training dollars. Recent research has found that 80 percent of the impact of training is lost without post-event coaching and/or use of the learning soon after training. Another study showed that less than 20 percent of all training gets used in a way that achieves performance results.

Below are some ideas to improve those percentages. It is based on the belief that training is a process, not an event.

Employees Should Know they Need Training

First, look at what will happen before the training occurs. It all starts with the manager. All too often, when I ask my participants to tell me why they are attending the course, they will say things like, "I don’t know, my manager just signed me up," or "My manager made me come."

Managers play a vital role in ensuring measurable return on training investments. They must have very clearly in mind the learning, performance and results that will take place. What will the employee do less of or more of after the training? What will success look like, and how will it affect the productivity of the employee and his/her department and ultimately the bottom line? Try to make the goals as quantifiable and behavior-based as possible. Make sure the trainees understand what program content they must focus on that they will need to apply back on the job to affect specific business objectives.

It is absolutely critical that the manager take the time to sit with the employees and go over what success will look like. If you feel the employees need to learn to be better listeners, for example, discuss the behaviors they need to improve in that area. Are they interrupting too much? Do they not check for understanding often?

Employees Should Know How the Training will Increase ROI

Relate how increasing ROI it will affect employees' success on the job and how it will tie into the success of the department. Will there be fewer miscommunications and mistakes, and how much could that save you in time and money? Trainees must be made acutely aware of the expectations that will follow upon completion of the training.

Follow Up and Development

After the training, managers must be actively involved in the transfer of learning from the training into actual employee behaviors on the job. A good way to transfer learning is to have each trainee make an action plan upon completion of the training. The manager should go over it soon after the training to review and discuss the best plan for putting the new learning to work and then determine a schedule of regular follow up and measurement after that. It should also be included as part of the employee performance appraisal.

Many managers protest that they don’t have time to do this. Yet if they don’t, they will have wasted the employee’s time along with the training expense. Follow up after the training is over is critical to getting behavior change.

And finally, realize that training is not always the right answer for a productivity or attitude problem. In my work with many companies I have found that the majority of problems come from processes and procedures and the resulting lack of clear communication, not the people.

First published on Human Resources IQ.