Should we stop measuring training ROI?

A recent LinkedIn Organizational Development discussion group posed the question, “Should we stop measuring Training ROI?”  While that is a good question, there are two questions one might ask first. Is there a well-defined expectation for success, and is the training itself designed to produce the desired success?

Training is not the same as learning.  By definition, learning is a change of behavior based on experience. Training is what happens before learning.  Therefore to be successful (i.e. a change of behavior) the training must create a change in behavior.  If there is no change, then learning did not take place and hence there is no ROI.

Expectations for Success

It all starts with expectations.  What success do you want to achieve?  We’ve asked many people over the years about their training expectations and always surprised at the range of answers, which vary wildly from 15-80%.  It’s no wonder some want to stop reporting and measuring ROI.  If one expects only a 15% success that that would mean that for every dollar we spend on training we lose $0.85.  That is not a very good return.

Why wouldn’t we want 100%?

At The Cowboy Solution ranch, if we hire a trainer to train a horse, rest assured that we expect 100% success. Consider what you would expect of a surgeon, plumber, or mechanic.  Shouldn’t all training be that important?

The Training

Part of the evaluation process must include the training itself.  Is the training designed in such a way as to cause a change in behavior or action?  Be sure to ask the right questions.   The question is not, can the training effect change, but is it designed in such a way that it will cause change?

In his book Choice Theory, Dr. William Glasser says that the retention (learning) rate of success for any training that involves lecture (classroom) is at best 5% successful.  For every dollar you spend on such training your ROI is at best a $.95 loss. 

Information alone does not change behavior or produce learning.  As a child your mother told you not to touch the stove.  That was information.  However, only when you experienced touching the stove for yourself and getting burned, did you learn.  Dr. Glasser states that experiential learning is 75% successful and the most successful learning comes from teaching others.

Before we opt to pitch ROI out with the proverbial bath water, it might be advantageous to more closely evaluate and set expectations for the training.  Is the training classroom or experiential?  Will transfer of knowledge take place that will result in the actions you desire?  Do you have a reasonable chance of success?

The investment choice is yours. 

Don Hutson
(281) 732-4963
Author: Don Hutson
Phone: (281) 732-4963
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