In order to measure ROI you need to be working with something that is treated as an investment in the first place. Expenses are something else altogether, and in and of themselves, they “return” very little. Investments are allowed to mature over time. They are given dollars and resources to support the efforts. They are tracked, reviewed, measured and modified based on their performance. They are communicated to all involved in the outcome. They have buy-in and, typically, top-down support within the organization. They are seen as strategic and are tightly mapped to the goals and initiatives of the organization. Because of this, they are often the last things to be cut during difficult times.
Expenses are seen in quite the opposite light. They are viewed as “necessary evils” and support the more strategic initiatives. They are often the first things to be stopped or cut when times are tough. They are not initially involved in planning and strategic discussions since they are seen as resources to be addressed later.
What is the perception of your training department? How can you help reposition it so that it is seen on the investment side of the ledger sheet?
- It starts with how well you have mapped the learning outcomes of your department with business goals and strategic programs within your organization. Although this is the most obvious solution, it is also the most easily misunderstood. Again, it gets back to expense versus investment. One is seen as supporting the process, while the other is seen as integral to the outcome. Training goals need to be repositioned as a part of the “end,” not the means. Too many training objectives deal only with the execution and operational aspect of business outcomes, not the actual business outcome itself.
- A second, related area to consider is the degree to which your training department has made itself visible and available within the organization. Training departments have traditionally been viewed as a reactive solution that is involved after the strategic planning has been completed. Training needs to step up proactively and make itself heard and involved much earlier in the organization’s planning process. Create communication channels and relationships that help make training much more accessible. Help managers understand the value of including training earlier. Show how much more effective learning can be when it’s mapped to initiatives and projects in the early planning stages rather then later. Share statistics and research that support this perspective. I know of a training department that took this to the extreme, scheduling “rounds” for their trainers. Trainers would “walk” certain departments. Eventually, they became an integral part of these departments.
ROI is all about understanding how valuable an investment has been, and can become. Training has lived in the expense side of too many companies for too long. It’s up to each CLO and training manager to change that perception so true ROI can be measured. Only then will training be evaluated and modified to do all it can for an organization.