Article: Why focusing on ROI of learning programs is critical to organisational success

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Why focusing on ROI of learning programs is critical to organisational success

A learning culture is essential to the success of upskilling/reskilling programs. But how can organisations measure the impact of such initiatives? An exclusive roundtable discussion, powered by UNext and PeopleMatters, tried to answer this and more.
Why focusing on ROI of learning programs is critical to organisational success

With a billion jobs set to be radically transformed by technology over the next ten years, organisations are pivoting towards creating a learning culture that not only helps upskill employees but is in line with the overarching business goals. 

From an organisational point of view, forward-thinking leaders are also trying to keep tabs on the ROI of learning programs. This is critical to understanding the long-term viability of skilling initiatives. Understanding of the ROI also helps HR leaders take data-backed decisions regarding creating better, even more impactful programs. 

To better understand the future of learning initiatives and how to focus more on ROI, People Matters and UNext, an upskilling and learning company for 360 degree talent transformation, brought together HR and L&D leaders together for an exclusive roundtable discussion on Reimagining Learning: Strategies for Unlocking ROI in a Rapidly Evolving Tech Environment

Bhaskaran Srinivasan, Chief Academic Officer of UNext set the context of the session through his opening keynote. The discussion was expertly moderated by Santanu Ghoshal, Vice President - HR, Schaeffler India, with leaders from a wide cross-section of industries in attendance. Here are some important takeaways from the event: 

Why skills matter

During the session, a key talking point was the emergence of skills as a crucial form of currency in today’s world of work. New technology such as generative AI, machine learning, ChatGPT is entering the world of work every day and is quickly attaining mainstream status. This leaves the workforce in a constant state of flux, trying to play catch up with the ever-evolving tech.

But learning and development leaders view this crossroads as an opportunity to move towards creating a holistic working environment that champions skilling and prioritises the creation of a highly skilled workforce that is future-ready.  

Some of the steps being taken by organisations towards creating a learning culture that inspires employees to ‘level up’ and are yielding great results include culture audits, coaching managers and including middle management in all the top-level decision-making.

Building competencies but also confidence 

The discussion also touched on how training is all about building core competencies among employees. 

Every employee wants to ‘level up’ – they want the fancy job title and the promotion. But employees also need to take a step back and ask themselves: Do I want to move to the next job level because of my skill level or just because of the time spent with the organisation? 

That is why building core competencies through training is among the most important aspects of employee development and engagement. It is as much about upskilling as it is about employees re-assessing themselves on their journey to the next level

Along with building core, technical competencies, the need to develop confidence among young talent was also stressed. 

Induction programs need to be designed around confidence and self-image, both things that took a major hit during the pandemic. Technical things can be learned, but young employees also need to focus on the critical question – Who am I and what is my work ethic? When employees are sure of themselves, they stand up and perform better and that works well for all stakeholders, most of all the parent organisation,” one of the leaders noted. 

Understanding impact 

Having invested so heavily, organisations naturally want to effectively measure the return on investment (ROI) in learning and clearly delineate the tangible and intangible benefits. HR leaders also discussed the best, most practical and actionable strategies to ensure a high ROI from their training initiatives. 

While most leaders agreed on the importance of measuring ROI, the complexity of actually doing it was also touched upon. One of the leaders present spoke about how they were able to measure the ROI of an executive presence program effectively because they were given ample time: 

It took us over six months to actually see the impact – the number of meetings that had to be conducted to make certain decisions came down from 12 to 8.5, post our executive sessions. To do this we needed six months and the efforts of two-three employees. So an important question is – you can churn out training after training, but do you have the right mind space and time to measure ROI?

Assessing the impact of learning initiatives

Bhaskaran Srinivasan talked about the many important aspects or layers for measuring the impact and calculating the return on training and learning programs. This includes: 

  1. The Mandatory layer includes an introduction to important rules and regulations such as POSH

  2. The Hygiene layer under which fall different boot camps, introduction to new machinery, new versions of tools to be used, etc.

  3. The Opportunities Layer includes, say, the chance to be a part of conferences in different cities

  4. The Purpose-Driven Layer - This is the layer that focuses on talent transformation in terms of the complexity of decisions made, the impact of decisions, and the circle of influence.

The employee lifecycle and the career stage of the employee are crucial to assessing impact of learning,” Bhaskaran said.  

Leaders present at the roundtable also discussed the different approaches organisations have while finalising vendors to conduct upskilling programs, certifications and coaching sessions. These ranged from ensuring meeting with trainers beforehand, customising programs as per employees, having exit and penalty clauses in the contract and getting access to certifications programs crafted by big brands.   

The exclusive roundtable discussion helped lead this pivotal conversation on how businesses can map an effective strategy to measure learning outcomes and create meaningful impact on both employees as well as the business’s bottom line. 

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Topics: Executive Coaching, HR Technology, Online Learning Solutions, Learning & Development

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