Three Ways to Ensure a Higher ROI on Training

Training. It’s the first answer to a lot of questions that start with “how do I/we…”. Throughout all of the technological advances, education is still at the epicenter of organizational change and development.

It’s also one of the easiest ways to open the window and throw money out of it.

Many make the mistake of looking at training as a magic bullet. Particularly in the staffing industry that experiences high levels of staff turnover that creates a level of apathy amongst management when it comes to training, the decision is often made quickly to invest in external training, send the employees off to it and expect them to return fully transformed and capable.

There are three simple but necessary steps to not only protect your investment but to see the high level return you’re looking for:

1. Run a training needs analysis. What are you trying to solve with this training? Is it truly a training issue or something else? Training cannot help every behavioral issue — and many have heard the term “skills vs. will.” If an employee does not have the desire to do the job, no amount of training will help.

Sometimes it’s a management issue. If there’s a process that’s not being followed yet the employee has been thoroughly trained on it, the manager needs to step in and establish their own checks and balances, as additional training won’t help.

Who should run the analysis? All management and leadership involved in this function should be consulted and work together to put this together. It ensures buy in from all involved. Too often this very important task is handed off to learning and development and then managers come back saying “I don’t think this training is good/effective.” Everyone needs to have some skin in the game here.

2. Set clear training objectives and measurements.

Typically any initiative — be it training or otherwise — should address a savings on time, cost or resources. Or perhaps an increase in productivity and a decrease in unwanted attrition. Ultimately, we are all striving for improved organizational efficiency.

After you set the objectives, how will you measure if the training is helping to move the needle? Outline the key metrics (it could be measuring time to profitability to help determine if your sales training is working or a decrease in unwanted attrition to determine if your new hire training is effective, etc.). Any KPIs you establish for the training should directly address your business objective. Particularly in the case of an ongoing training where you may be paying on an ongoing basis, you don’t want to continue putting money into something that isn’t moving the needle the way you need it to.

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3. Training should be from both a top down and bottom up approach. Everyone, and I mean everyone needs to be involved in the training. If managers sit out the sales training to take their lunch or get other admin work done, how will they enforce the training on the floor if they didn’t attend it? Alternatively, if onboarding is done solely by one party without management involvement, the new hire is going to have an entirely different experience once faced with their manager every day, who is a relative unknown to them.

There are lots of statistics out there about how much people retain when learning a new skill or function, and most are bleak – 20 to 30% is retained at most. If leadership expect a training will alleviate them from having to revisit the concept on the floor and to revisit it more than one time, they are gravely mistaken.

Training exists to create a change in behavior. If you think about how hard it is to change your own behaviors — diet, exercise, quitting smoking, etc. — then you can better understand how challenging it is to create a change in someone else.

Commitment from all levels to learn it, invest their time in it and then see it, hear it and do it repetitively until it becomes a part of the employee’s DNA is the only way training moves the needle enough to justify the return on investment. Otherwise it’s money out the window.


Tricia Bielinski
Tricia Bielinski is global HR director, K2 Partnering Solutions Ltd.

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