#TrainChat Wrapup: Where ROI Fits Into Training

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On Friday the Daily Mindflash once again hosted a Twitter chat with contributor David Kelly, in which we discussed his latest article, “Why We should stop talking about ROI in Training.” Once again, the chat was a success, with hundreds of questions, comments, and opinions pouring in to the hashtag #TrainChat related to the topic.

We’ve compiled some of the most interesting comments here, along with Kelly’s responses to our questions. For the sake of clarity, we’ve condensed Kelly’s various tweets into a single response, and in places cleaned up a little bit of Twitter grammar.

The Daily Mindflash: LnDDave’s article suggests that ROI fails to deliver value to organizations. Do you Agree or Disagree? Why?

@LnDDave: I think there are two primary issues with ROI in Training: Poor metrics and even worse implementation. Most of the applications of ROI center on reaction and learning, not what people are actually doing with their knowledge.I find most talk of ROI is trying to justify value; Just be valuable and the need to justify yourself melts away.  Credible stories of actual worker experiences are more valuable than sterile ROI metrics anyway.

Other responses from participants

@anicole87: I feel like people just say ROI to sound smart but they have NO idea really what they are trying to measure.
@janebozarth: “We don’t question the ROI on the many inefficient ways we currently do things.” (What’s the ROI of email?)
@AjayPangarkar: ROI is inappropriate for training…even Philips says <5% of training is to be evaluated at ROI
@Ruthie_HB Think by focusing on ROI become too enamored with 1 and done or checkmarks. Training should go beyond that

* * *

Can you talk about some examples where ROI is beneficial for training orgs? Conversely, when is it not useful?

@LnDDave: I’ve heard of large scale and expensive programs analyzing ROI. Then again, that’s really just due diligence isn’t it? There are countless examples of poor ROI implementation — just look at the smile sheets that are collected. It goes back to the comment we made earlier; if we do our jobs better, our need for ROI to prove our worth goes away. Jane Bozarth recently described ROI as “evaluation by autopsy.” That’s why it’s use is so limited; we need to evaluate with a focus on improving what we do, not on proving it’s value.

Other responses from participants

@megbertapelle: When investing time/$ in a new program, good to know impact on biz performance if possible. Variables of course cloud issue.
@AjayPangarkar: Only good if training is a multi-year capital investment and even then it is not clear (ask any biz trained director).
@tomspiglanin: Better to set expectations with execs in advance, measure against those instead?
@FionaQuigs: Other than training I barely hear other depts talk about ROI.

* * *

OK, so what other kinds of metrics, aside from training metrics, can be used to demonstrate the value of these L&D efforts?

@LnDDave: There are plenty of metrics in use in organizations; which ones are affected by the performance you are looking to support? If we want to be relevant to organizational leaders, we need to speak their language and learn their metrics. We complain about silos in organizations, but we use language that no one else in the organization uses. I just think ROI in training has in many ways jumped the shark; Too many people focus on the metric instead of the impact. Too much of ROI is sterile data. We need to use the data to help tell a better story. I also think the point Allison Rossett makes (referenced below) is important: Part of any evaluation framework should be a look at ourselves and how we can improve our processes and programs.

Other responses from participants

@srini_venkat: In ROI, you are forced to assign a monetary value, which implies lot of assumptions; hence ROI sometimes does not convince leaders.
@lesleywprice: Business metrics…what is operational baseline, what are targets after intervention…measure against them.
@anicole87: Things that ALREADY get measured today – retention, safety, sales #, $ saved. dont re-invent the wheel here.
@arossett: We measure to make decisions about 3 Ps, planning what to do; proving what we have done; imProving our efforts, don’t u think.

* * *

Allison Michels did a nice job of summing up the chat with this closing tweet: “What I have learned so far in this chat 1- tell a story. 2 – use existing business metrics 3-focus on impact.”

Be sure to check back again this Friday at 10 a.m. PST for yet another #TrainChat discussion.