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cost benefit analysis


Does anyone have any ideas for quantifying the benefits of soft skills training? I have to prepare a cost benefit analysis for a supervisory skills course which covers communication, motivation, assertiveness and time management.
claire mant

11 Responses

  1. it isn’t easy but…
    Try to take just one area at a time and do some “What if?” thinking..
    What if we could get supervisors able to motivate the sales staff by just 5% more than current levels….(EG) current conversion rates of enquiries to sales is 42%, by increasing that by 5% we would increase turnover by £12750 per annum.
    Assertiveness: Current escalation levels for complaints are 12%, a 5% reduction in escalation would save 237 hours of management time at £X per hour would represent a benefit of £13,000 per annum
    and so on
    I’m sure there are other ways but that has worked for me

  2. It can be a bit complicated!
    Russell suggests that with motivation for example the indicator could be sales. I.e increase sales by 5%. There is an implicit assumption here that motivation is 100% responsible for this 5% increase in sales. It might be. It’s also possible, and arguably more likely, that other factors have contributed as well. The question is, did these other factors contribute 1% or 99%?

    The potential problem with Russell’s useful approach is that if (when?) faced with a very demanding client or one of their officers, such as CFO/FD, not satisfying the demand, and only providing figures as above, will likely lead to a dent in your credibility with this client.

    I have some material on my web site at but briefly, assuming that the soft skills training is in relation to some critical incident and/or poor performance, work back from the problem to build up a tree of all possible root causes. Some of these will be behavioural. For each of these causes, work out what causes them, and keep going until you cannot define any more causes for the causes you have so far (saty with me!). These will be root causes. Now work forwards to determine the relative contributions of each cause to the parent cause, right the way back to the initial poor performance or critical incident. Where soft-skills training has been carried out to address a particular cause (hopefully, a root cause!) the relative contribution to fixing the problem can be used to claim a pro-rata amount of the overall improvement. This way, you are clearly and explicitly only claiming that part of the improvement that is due to the training in soft skills that you have carried out.

    I should add that this logic only applies where the soft skills training has been shown to be essential to the success of addressing that particular root cause. Where such training is not essential, one must question if you should be doing it at all. This doesn’t of course mean that you don’t do the training in the end!

  3. Be wary of claiming time saved
    Another passing thought…

    If you are identifying time saved as a result of some training, be aware that these claims can be viewed as suspiscous in some quarters. Why?

    Well, it’s easy to identify paper savings, e.g. 5 mins saved per day, x 220 working days x 30 employees = 33,000 mins per year or 550 hrs per year. At £15 per hour fully loaded costs that represents a ‘saving’ of £8,250. If the training cost £2,000 the claimed benefit is 412%+, and ROI is similar.

    Unless something useful and value-adding can be done with the actual time saved, the saving is in reality NIL, and all you’ve done is reduce the bottom line of the organisation by £2,000, the cost of the training. That is most definately not good business!

    Best wishes


  4. Difficult
    Claire, it is extremely difficult to measure ROI for any training. This is predominantly because of the number of outside influecnes that can affect business performance results. For example, a new marketing campaign may increase sales, this would make it difficult to attribute an increase in sales performance to any training.

    Sometimes the best way is to drill down to local level. Look at the performance changes at individual staff level that can be directly related to the training. Again, this is not always easy to quantify due to outside influences. Unfortunately, approximations are sometimes all we can give.

  5. Perhaps the need is to look at the opposite
    I agree totally with the comments made so far. Having recognised this years ago when working in a very large multi-national, whose MIS dept believed everything was quantifiable, I committed the cardinal sin of disagreeing with them 🙂

    Instead I had them look at the probable outcomes if NO training took place, at any time. Most of the MIS guys were Management Accountants and I got them to hypothesize where they would be if they had not received any training in their profession. The answer of course was that they would probably have become Chartered Accountants instead – well, they thought their own joke funny.

    More seriously, it really is quite easy to get management to look at the likely impact on businesses if, eg: there is no customer contact training, no leadership training, no supervisory skills training, and so on.

    So literally, while we cannot, hand on heart, seriously and with any reliability, measure the impact of soft-skills training, we can see quite easily the impact if no training takes place. I would add that it is also just about essential for the quality of the training content and delivery to be monitored on a regular basis.

  6. performance improvement measurement requires that measurable per
    Hello Claire,

    I agree with some of the earlier comments – measurement is not easy – yet it is possible. If individuals and work units have measurable performance objectives in place, data may be captured pre and post a training intervention. The difference or trend can be analysed, considering all the variables.
    I disagree that approximations are all that is possible. For many years our clients have been using an exceptionally well validated assessment of generic career and life effectiveness skills, including assertiveness, time management, drive strength (motivation), etc. This gives a measure at individual level for input to development plans. Results may also be captured anonymously to create a group profile that will illustrate priorities for skill development for the group. See the Personal Skills Map™ on, or email me for additional information.

  7. A qualitative approach
    How about trying a slightly different approach – asking people who’ve been through training whether, and in what way, the training influenced their working habits and outcomes.

    For example, we email people a few weeks / months after our networking skills workshop, asking them how what they learnt has affected their work. All we need is for one person to say they made one additional sale, for example, for the cost of the training to be justified many times over. You don’t always hit the jackpot when you ask for feedback, but when you do, you get very valuable data.

  8. ROI
    We ran a soft skills course for a number of our Contract Managers last year and I found it difficult to get an effective forecast of ROI.

    However we have now managed to prove that it worked as we have reduced absence from 5225 days to 4401 days a saving of over £150,000 in sick pay.

    In one of my previous companies I ran similar training to you are proposing but finished it each delegate present a 5 min presentation of what they felt was wrong in the company. Just one of their ideas saved over a £50,000 in productions costs. Cost of the course was £8,000.

  9. So what was the real reason…?
    Iain Young provides an interesting example of some ROI.

    Question – was the improvement due to the fact the people were all together, or was it down to the training content delivered? Probably it was both, but was it 99% due to being in the same room and 1% due to the training delivered, or the other extreme, or somewhere in the middle?

    Does it even matter? Sometimes the training can be the excuse to get people together!

  10. Soft vs hard false dichotomy
    There’s no such thing as ROI on ‘soft skills’ – either the training was designed to deliver hard results or not -(what difference would better communication make, for example?). Evaluation and ROI should always be designed in – not after the event. So what TNA process was used to decide these supervisors needed any training – if it was not to improve existing performance measures?

  11. Identify the changes that you want to see in say three months ti
    Claire, consider identifying where the participants are before the learning event. Then agree where you want them to be in say three months time. This way you have a yardstick (evaluation) that has been agreed by all. What changes to performance do you want to see, what do you want people to be able to do differently? Provide the learning event, provide on-job support, time to develop the learning (practice) then evaluate.


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