Through the life of an L&Der, there inevitably comes the question, what’s the ROI of training? It’s an interesting question, because something which is typically about behaviours and personal development is being forced to conform to conventional measurements a business is used to. And, importantly, it’s a valid question. A business needs to know they are gaining benefit from the overhead cost that someone (or team) is paid.
But I think what’s typically put as the ‘proof’ is a fallacy. Here’s what I mean. What’s the value you put on the relationships you build at work? When most companies will encourage a collegiate work ethic, there’s no actual evidence to suggest this makes a difference. Not really. Employee engagement surveys may suggest a workforce is happy or engaged or feels listened to. But there’s little to suggest having a collegiate atmosphere is any better than having a workforce which is mercenary. As long as the job gets done, and no one dies, and environmentally things seem to be amenable to helping people do good work, isn’t that what you need?
Abdi Ltd have a robust system of working out ROI, and it’s a strict methodology you have to follow to show the true cost of training and what this means for the business. It’s certainly a useful tool and system, I just don’t think it gives a true and full picture of what needs to be considered.
So why the focus on collaboration, sharing, learning and development, and all things intangible? Because if the self-help books are anything to go by, these are the things we should be focused on, right? And in particular, the books from the successful millionaires/billionaires seem to suggest it’s the soft things in life that make the difference. You know, listening, coaching, advising, etc. Same old, same old.
The question that L&D needs to be ready to answer is what are they doing to help the business achieve its company goals. That’s how it wins. That’s where the ROI comes from. Not from the number of training courses it delivers. Not from the number of people who have attended external events. Not from the number of managers who have had training. Not even from the tens of thousands (in some cases hundreds of thousands) of pounds spent on trainers, consultants and facilitators. They’re just figures which anyone can improve.
If I can’t tell you how I’m helping the company to achieve its goals then I’m not giving ROI. What that means is I have to be so explicitly a part of the business that managers know I’m a source that can help something get delivered. That may be an L&D event, it may be paying for an event, it may be facilitating a workshop. That’s where L&D makes its mark. Not through happy sheets, monthly training reports or budget reviews. Yes, they’re important. No, they don’t reflect what is actually done in any way whatsoever.
My old boss made the team fill out a set of activities which ‘measured’ what we do. This covered a range of activities we were meant to do which effectively became a list of ‘delivery’ items, and ‘non-delivery’. And every month we’d have a look at how we set our time against it. And it used to be fascinating. Most of the team would average 60%-80% delivery activity. That could sound scary for some people, and encouraging for others. Ultimately what it helped him to show the HR Director was how the team were using their time. I’m not suggesting L&D needs to be monitored via timesheets, but it does offer a better indication of the actual things done as opposed to broad figures and broad numbers.