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Jean-Marc Tassetto



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How L&D can solve the training ROI problem

It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it can be done. 

For many years, calculating return on investment of workforce training has been next to impossible, with investment hard to justify against actual, tangible results.  

Our industry is painfully aware of this. In February, David Perring, director of research at L&D analysts Fosway said that the profession is doing “terribly” when it comes to any reliable way of measuring learning impact — with his research showing that only 14% of respondents are effectively measuring the impact of learning, while a third have given up trying.

Training ROI is still hard to measure, but it is possible as a learning leader to impact positively by making people enjoy learning, making training more accessible, providing quality content and improving how people memorise and learn.

As Catherine Benet, HR director at Aéroports de Paris, says, “The main issue for human resources is the calculation of ROI”.  

The problem is what we’re using for input. The course attendance sheet or its online equivalent is far too often the sole method used to track L&D impact, possibly augmented by an assessment sheet or follow-up questionnaire. It’s not enough.

L&D managers need to start with getting better raw material to work with. Ask these questions to capture the real, positive return on investment your L&D investment is making on the organisation:

  • How many employees want to train?
  • How many employees are trained?
  • How many employees train with relevant or adapted content?
  • How many employees remember what they learnt?
  • How many employees apply what they learnt in their day-to-day jobs?
  • How many employees are more effective/productive/more engaged thanks to what they learnt?
  • On which specific professional tasks are these employees more effective?
  • How are these employees performing better and/or are more engaged?
  • Is the company seeing the result of this better performance and engagement thanks to tangible and measurable business results?
  • Is the management team rewarding these results?
  • Is the reward validated by the employee?

Apply a conversion rate to each of these questions and you will obtain a genuinely useful numeric value calculation and an estimate of this feedback loop efficiency. The higher your conversion rates, the better your ROI.

I’m not pretending the calculation isn’t complex. L&D cannot easily control all of these elements. Learning methods, tools, content, pedagogy, trainers, senior executives all play an important part. So the question is which key performance indicators do you have the most direct impact on?

Everybody enjoys learning, if the conditions are right

The answer is helping people to enjoy learning, making training more accessible, providing qualitative content and improving how people memorise and learn.

To say that a learner doesn’t want to learn is just wrong-headed. Everybody enjoys learning, but not if the learning process is boring, frustrating and sometimes humiliating. It’s normal that the school system or some training programmes are ignored if this is the case.

A good user experience is the essential basis in any training programme, whether face-to-face learning or e-learning. A sleepy company training room with uninspiring trainers is as frustrating as an e-learning platform that is full of bugs and that offers little feedback or instruction.

In addition, to understand what really motivates learners, it’s instructive to look at the human factor and especially, game playing. We need to change the way we see training and encourage game playing, while always seeking the right balance between the game aspects and the learning ones.

We also need to be better at picking up on when training actually happens nowadays, because it could be in the morning before going to work, or on the commute, or perhaps during a meeting or between meetings – the urge or the desire to learn something new can happen at any time. Therefore, from the beginning of content design and programmes being drawn up, we need to ensure that training content is as accessible as possible, on your laptop or your smartphone, at any time, from wherever we are. For example, learners, especially millennials and generation Y employees, love quizzes and ‘battles’.

Training ROI is still hard to measure, but it is possible as an learning leader to impact positively by making people enjoy learning, making training more accessible, providing quality content and improving how people memorise and learn.

Through these measures you’ll increase significantly the impact of continuous training on teams’ performance – and that’s a number everyone in your organisation will be delighted to see.

Interested in this topic? Read Measuring L&D impact: a realistic approach in a VUCA climate.

Author Profile Picture
Jean-Marc Tassetto


Read more from Jean-Marc Tassetto

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