Last week I attended a Return on Investment (ROI) workshop by the ROI Institute, hosted by the International Society for Performance Improvement, Potomac Chapter.  Based on my professional background, the lens I used to understand the content and discussions, was training.  As I reflected afterwards, I was left thinking that we, as trainers and developers, really could do a better job demonstrating the value of what we do.  Often times when determining if a training has been a success or not, the only data we draw from is class evaluations, and while evaluations can shed light on trainee reaction and learning, it doesn’t measure success.  I think we can do better.  As trainers, we need to start asking the bigger questions:  Are trainees using the information?  How is this training impacting business?  Has it increased productivity? Decreased re-work? Decreased citizen complaints?

Sometimes the biggest obstacle to answering these questions is being able to identify, from the analysis stage of training development, what is the goal of the training?  It is unlikely, for example, that the goal is simply for trainees to learn a new procedure.  That procedure was not created for the sake of creating a procedure; instead it was created to accomplish a task that works towards a specific goal (increased productivity, decreased errors etc.).  Therefore, the question cannot merely be, did trainees learn the new procedure?  It should be, instead, did trainees implement what they learned and produce some measurable benefit?
Some of the tips Dr. Jack Phillips (ROI Institute) presented were the following:

  • Do not start training development by identifying learning needs, instead, start by identifying the ROI objectives, such as, what are the business needs? Then, build you can begin building your learning objectives.
  • Make your ROI objectives specific and measurable, for example: Decrease accidents by 5% in four months after training has been implemented.
  • Do not wait until the end of a training event to evaluate, you should be evaluating at every stage of the process.