Ten Ways to Prove ROI on Your Training Program

If you can’t prove a return on your training program—real learning that is adopted and applied— then you run the risk of having it cut back or even losing it.


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If you can’t prove a return on your training program—real learning that is adopted and applied— then you run the risk of having it cut back or even losing it. You may think that measuring ROI is hard; however, if you follow some fast, hard rules, you’ll be on your way to proving that your training program has measurable impact.

1. You don’t need to go overboard in calculating ROI. You only need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that your program is cost justified.

2.  Shift your thinking from a quality mindset to an impact and results mindset. ROI is more than a calculation; it’s a way of thinking. While quality is important, it doesn’t go nearly far enough in proving that training positively impacts the business.

3.  Calculate ROI continuously so you always know how much benefit your program is generating. There are two ways to waste training dollars: 1. train people who don’t need it or 2. train people who don’t use it.  Neither of these things has to happen in your program if you have a handle on what is working and what is not.

4.  Build your case for ROI step by step.  Make arguments and then present facts to support them, which ultimately results in an obvious conclusion—that your training program generates more value than it costs.

5.  The more data points you have, the better.  The people who matter when it comes to making your case are typically analytical and will likely want an explanation as to how you reached your conclusion. Validate your findings with as much data, from as many different perspectives, as possible.  That means trainee and manager responses immediately after a training course and a couple of months later.

6.  ROI isn’t just about money. Analyze results that lead to ROI across the following four levels of measurement: quality, effectiveness, job impact and business results.

7.  Be as conservative as possible in your ROI calculations.  

8.  Know the investment outlay.  Since ROI by definition is a return on investment, it stands to reason that it can’t be calculated without knowing the investment itself. First, calculate the investment—training cost added to the salary of the trainee for the days within class. Then, calculate the return—multiply the average salary by the percent trainees said their work improved due to training.

9.  Communicate the story behind the numbers. Clearly state the goals of your program as you first envisioned it, the challenges you faced and how you overcame them to make a difference for the business.

10.  Don’t be discouraged by low ROI numbers. Low ROI can be improved. Taking a proactive stance and a comprehensive view of job support and other adoption practices will get your ROI numbers where they need to be and ensure the continuation and advancement of your training programs. © 2012 Reprinted with permission from ESI International.

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ESI International