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Training is an investment in the development of your people and, for some, that is sufficient justification. However, for others, we know that training budgets are often cut, underspent and challenged. We also know that people wanting to upskill find it difficult to obtain the sign-off to take a training course. This is partly due to the cost and time away from the day job but also because managers are not convinced that this time and money will provide a good return on their investment or ROI.

Holy Grail

If you can show that investment will provide a good ROI, then you would be silly not to invest. Why then do so many training courses not provide that guaranteed ROI to obtain instant sign-off? Some of this is due to the kinds of courses being taken, some to the way courses are set up and monitored, and some of this is down to the motivation of those attending the training.

Any course in which you can measure improvement in terms of productivity, efficiency and reduced errors can easily prove ROI. The secret is perhaps a change in the approach to training. You don’t just go on a course – you have to measure current performance and then remeasure after the event to prove the benefits. For me there are a whole series of courses which can, when set up correctly, provide easy-to-measure ROI. These include:

  • Facilitation skills or effective meetings skills – measure the inefficiency of meetings prior to taking the course and then remeasure afterwards.
  • Problem-solving skills – pick a problem to solve and then calculate the benefits afterwards.
  • Lean and/or Lean Six Sigma training – select an area to be improved using the approach, then implement and measure improvements.
  • Negotiation skills – review a past and new deal and compare the results.
  • Any Microsoft courses – measure how long it takes to complete a document or task and then remeasure it.
  • Presentation skills – assess the current level of presenting via feedback from an audience and then reassess.
  • etc

Let’s look at one set of the above courses – training people in Lean Six Sigma. For those who don’t know Lean Six Sigma, it is a structured way to solve a problem by looking at data, identifying the root causes of a problem and then using a whole series of skills, tools and techniques to solve the problem and implement a permanent solution. The key to Lean Six Sigma is that you need both technical and people skills for it to be a success.

To certify and qualify in Lean Six Sigma, you need to complete a course, pass an exam and then, most importantly, show how you have solved a problem using the approach. This application is vital not only to prove learning, but also for your ROI. There is no other series of training courses I have ever come across with such a strong link to ROI. The reason is that the structure of Lean Six Sigma teaches people how to collect data on a current situation – how long something takes, how much rework it needs, and the impact on customers. Each delegate is taught how to collect this data accurately. At the end of the project they must then re-collect the data to prove the improvement, and no improvement means they don’t qualify. Who signs off the savings identified? Finance does, and this is why virtually every company in the world is using it. So, unless you have a strange Finance Manager, the savings are real and verified. 

As an HR, L&D, or Training Manager, what does this actually mean? By putting a few people through Lean Six Sigma training, you obtain the following benefits:

  • Upskilled delegates in problem-solving as well as Lean and Six Sigma tools and techniques which they can prove they have applied.
  • Upskilled delegates in softer skills such as influencing and change management.
  • More motivated staff because they have an internationally recognised qualification and have actually solved a problem.
  • Strategic problems are solved permanently, which you can take some credit for.
  • A set of savings and benefits signed off by finance which you can then use to prove ROI; typically, this is in the region of at least 7:1 for the first problem solved and most people go on to solve at least three problems in a year, so a ROI of at least 21:1. Once, one of our clients had an ROI on one project of over 1000:1!

For courses on Lean Six Sigma and other aspects of business improvement please have a look at the catalogue of courses we offer from 100% Effective, who are specialists in this field.

Why doesn’t everyone set up training in this way, training with measurements and re-measurements? In some instances, it is because it is very difficult to do and in others it is because we have just not thought of training in this way before.

Training should no longer be just about turning up, attending the class and hoping for the best. The development of eLearning, blended learning and positive coaching gives us the opportunity to ensure that all training shows the ROI. Those responsible for organisational learning must insist that each training course is set up to enable ROI to be calculated. They must spend time collecting and assessing data. Courses such as Lean Six Sigma, Problem-Solving, Effective Meetings, Time Management, Microsoft Skills and Negotiating can all be highly powerful training courses where ROI is easy to demonstrate, if we use our imagination and think differently. 

Yes, there will be some courses where it is hard to show ROI, for example, prevention courses such as Health and Safety or Money Laundering, but in my opinion, these are the minority and not the majority. What we need is to develop our training course processes, collect data and provide support to ensure application. That typically means that the course itself is the easy part. We need to spend more time after the course supporting our delegates with coaching, eLearning and reflection. If we do that, we will then have courses which will provide ROI and also improve our people and our companies.For me, this is the holy grail of training.