Five quick wins to improve ROI on training

Alistair Shepherd on how to measure and improve the effectiveness of training.

Reading time: 4 minutes

We’re at the end of the year; budgets are being reviewed and set for 2020. And, in most organisations budgets are, at least in some part, determined by the ROI on the previous year – a sensible way to assess whether they’re investing in what’s right for the organisation.

Yet, most businesses find it difficult to quantify how much training costs. 

When you account for time taken out of the office versus the impact training has on productivity after it’s taken place, it’s difficult to get to an accurate number. You’d be forgiven for taking a more ‘gut feel’ approach to measuring ROI.

Like any other tool or process, we should be able to evaluate the effectiveness of training and ensure it’s having a positive impact on our businesses and our teams. So how can we measure and improve the ROI? 

1. Champion continuous learning 

Humans forget an average of 50% of any new information within an hour. Which suggests that very little is retained the day after training.

Companies that invest in training their employees do so with the best intentions – to ensure their workforce is highly skilled. However, the way training is delivered probably means that the majority of organisations aren’t getting the outcomes they expect. 

Learning in the flow of work means that new information and skills can be tried and tested straight away. Applying what’s been learned in day-to-day work not only helps improve adoption, it helps employees adapt quickly, keep up with change and solve problems at the point of need.

So, instead of long, intensive training courses encourage regular, on-the-job, micro learning for more effective outcomes. 

With new tools and a different approach, organisations should be able to measure training and the impact on business outcomes

2. Think twice before an offsite 

Offsites have the benefit of removing distractions of day-to-day work during training, but costs can quickly mount up.

Travel, room hire, catering and the cost of a trainer all need to be budgeted for and that’s before considering the costs associated with time out of the business which can quickly escalate; especially if you’re training senior teams.

We’ve already learned that there are benefits in continuous learning in terms of retention, but there are also huge benefits in terms of cost.

Research from LinkedIn supports the benefits of keeping training in the office. It found that 49% of workers would prefer to learn in the flow of work and 58% want to learn at their own pace.

3. Improve happiness

Happier people are about 12% more productive. A study from the University of Warwick highlights an important link between happiness and productivity.

While this might not seem an obvious route to improve return of your training budget, happier employees tend to have lower levels of absence and turnover. So, instead of investing in formal training, ask if you might see better outcomes from focusing on employee engagement. 

Look for tools that combine a regular team pulse with coaching to help you identify where to focus your team development.

As a result of taking a broader approach, you should see better retention of skills, falling recruitment and onboarding costs and, therefore, more budget for continuous learning – creating a positive loop of low turnover and high ROI. 

4. Let them learn

Finding time to learn can be the biggest barrier to effective training, especially when teams are learning in the flow of work. Taking some time away from ‘business as usual’ tasks to facilitate learning should be encouraged.

It’s a challenge for us all. According to Bersin by Deloitte the average employee has only 24 minutes a week for formal learning.

Given that “94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development” managers should try to create an environment where it’s OK to spend an hour reading to learn – especially if it’s related to an upcoming task or project.

5. Provide tools to facilitate learning and measure impact 

Shifting from traditional classroom training to learning in the flow of work doesn’t mean it should be less formal. It can also help managers facilitate their own team development with guided sessions developed alongside expert coaches.

At an organisational level, companies who implement learning in the flow of work should still be able to track participation, popular learning or trending topics and take the pulse of their teams.

With new tools and a different approach, organisations should be able to measure training, performance improvement, engagement and the impact all of this has on business outcomes leading to a more effective and valuable learning and development programme.


About the author

Alistair Shepherd is the founder of Saberr



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