RoI gains some credibility

Two recent awards by the American Society for Training & Development
(ASTD) have put return on investment – the training community’s holy grail – in
the spotlight.

The ASTD recognised global management consultancy Accenture along with
business consultant and return on investment (RoI) guru Merrill Anderson for
success in demonstrating hard business returns from workplace learning and
performance programmes.

Accenture developed a systematic approach to learning, making the positive
RoI that had been demonstrated the basis for adopting a learning platform, and
developing additional learning assets to support it.

"As our global economy develops, we’re coming to the realisation that
learning is the only true source of competitive advantage," said Anderson,
chief executive of MetrixGlobal. "The intense interest in RoI in the past
few years is a reflection of that trend."

Anderson has undertaken impact studies on a wide range of learning
programmes, including e-learning and performance management. "I take on
some of the larger evaluation challenges such as knowledge management or
executive coaching – areas that are considered to have an intangible value. I
pick up the gauntlet on those and show how we can convert some of the value
into monetary RoI."

He believes evaluation should be "holistic", rather than
"some bolt-on accessory at the end of a training programme".

"We ask what are the initiatives, how are they tied into the business
goals, and what percentage of those business goals will reasonably be impacted
by the learning programme," he said.

Anderson may be one of the training industry’s biggest proponents of
demonstrating RoI, but he believes there is also a role for softer methods. For
example, case studies detailing the progress of participants on a performance
management programme in narrative form can be very powerful in convincing
senior management of the value of learning. "Instead of just presenting
numbers and statistics and plans, humanising the impact tells a story that
people can really relate to," he said.

Anderson may be one of the training industry’s biggest proponents of
demonstrating RoI, but he believes there is also a role for softer methods. For
example, case studies detailing the progress of participants on a performance
management programme in narrative form can be very powerful in convincing
senior management of the value of learning. "Instead of just presenting
numbers and statistics and plans, humanising the impact tells a story that
people can really relate to," he said.

How to measure learning

To measure the impact of learning, the effects of that learning
must first be isolated from other possible factors. American RoI guru Merrill
Anderson suggests three easy methods. "The more you can use all three of
these, the more accurate and credible the RoI analysis will be," he said.

– Expert estimation: interview participants on impact of
training on new behaviours or skills

– Pre-/post-assessment: assess participants on behaviours or
skills both before and after the training

– Control group analysis: compare participants to peers who did
not take part in the learning

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