Ask a training manager what the Return On Investment (ROI) is on their Learning Management System (LMS) and you might hear them struggling for an answer. They might say, “Well, learning is good.”
In other words, they haven’t tracked their ROI. Unfortunately, many enterprises are putting together training programs based on what they feel people should know. They don’t know if it has an impact on the business. It’s more of a gut feeling about what should be done.
The Murky ROI of Training Programs
Measuring the effectiveness of your training program — the ROI — is a constant struggle across the learning industry. A full 23% of training managers indicate they aren’t measuring it, and the majority who do are using factors like completions and surveys. Those measurements really aren’t a measure of ROI at all, because they don’t indicate if the trainees do their job better.
The accurate measurables that would convey a justifiable ROI aren’t being used if all you track is participation. If that’s the case, all you can know is whether or not an individual took the course and passed. You can’t know whether or not anything was learned, if it changed any behavior, or if it developed any critical and relevant skills.
Without this understanding, the value of your LMS investment is just as murky. This can lead to the inefficient deployment of capital, because putting training programs together costs money and putting someone through a training program costs money.
Consequently, the likelihood that you’ll misallocate capital is high. As a result, most training programs are viewed internally as a necessary evil — something that has to be done rather than a strategic asset that helps teams grow and thrive.
Your Training Program Is a Strategic Investment
At a high level, your organization has two options:
- Hire people with the skills required to take the company into the future successfully.
- Make sure your people acquire the skills they need to tackle the future successfully.
The first option is riskier than it appears.
Any time you hire someone, you have a 50% chance they will be solid employees. Naturally, you try to avoid making bad hires, but a bad fit could arise as the result of many instances, from a bad fit for the culture to someone who has misrepresented their skills.
Conversely, among the people you have in-house, you have a much better sense of where they stand.
If they’ve been working with you for a long time, there’s usually a good fit between your organization and your people. This means you have a much better probability of success simply by enhancing the skills of your existing staff rather than trying to bring in those skills, fully developed, from the outside.
A training program that helps your staff acquire the skills they need to take your organization into the future is an excellent strategic investment. To do that, you must focus on skills aligned with your business.
The Problem with Most Training Programs
This is where most training programs fail – skills that aren’t absorbed. Most training programs start with the assumption that they are full of good information to help people develop. Unfortunately, the evidence we’ve seen doesn’t bear that out.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you just got hired as a customer service rep. The company believes customer service reps should know A, B and C. So it provides you with a training course where you learn A, B and C. Before long, you pass. You can now move on to the next course.
Wait – let’s hold on for just a minute.
Can you say by passing the course that you truly have the skills to be a good customer service rep? Or are you just able to regurgitate what you’ve learned very well?
As a new hire, you need to be armed with a set of demonstrable skills to move forward in whatever role you’re in.
Staying with the example of a customer service rep, are you an empathetic listener? Can you listen to someone with intent, translate what they’re expressing in the context of a challenge you can help with and then feed what you’re hearing back to a customer with a potential solution or set of solutions in mind to explore?
It’s not purely about knowing what to do. It’s about the actual doing on a consistent basis. Only then can we know the long-term impact of an LMS.
ROI Must Show New Skills
Staring into the future and a continually evolving world, your extended enterprise team needs to be armed with the skills it takes to go into the future and be successful. If we measure ROI without demonstrable evidence of skill absorption, how accurate is the story we’re telling about whether or not that investment in an LMS is excellent?
Think about how that potentially changes the conversation about a training program from a “have to do it” to a “can’t wait to do it and start using what I learn from it.”
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