Article: Effective ways for achieving higher ROI in learning

Learning & Development

Effective ways for achieving higher ROI in learning

What are some of these metrics which L&D leaders can use to measure the effectiveness of the learning program and adjust future training based on the results? How can they support learning at the speed of business?
Effective ways for achieving higher ROI in learning

From time immemorial, there has been one topic that revolves around the HR industry, and that is ROI on learning, and this will be relevant even in the future. How do we measure effectiveness? How do we measure impact? The only way to do so would be reviewing the overall outcome of the organization because learning is a collective responsibility. 

In a panel discussion at People Matters L&D Conference 2019 on ‘Measure for mileage’, Surya Prakash Mohapatra, Global Head- Talent Transformation and Learning & Development, Wipro Digital Operations and Platforms; Sudakshina Bhattacharya, CHRO, IL&FS Group; Indraneel Kumar Das, Head of Learning and Development India, Middle East, SS Africa at Kohler Co.; and Vaishali Naik, VP HR -  Head OD,  Kotak Life shared  some of these metrics which L&D leaders can use to measure the effectiveness of the learning program.

The shift from quality to impact 

What’s the ROI for going to a temple, church or mosque? Peace of mind? Spiritual enrichment? If you think about the ROI of going to a sacred place, you won’t have an answer, but you still go there. This means that even if we can’t figure out the ROI, we practice the things we are committed to. Then why is there a big question about training? We all know that we train people to build a team, and while organizations do require teamwork, why there is so much hue and cry about the ROI of learning? 

Major companies have started asking other business leaders, why should they invest their dollars in learning implementations? What would be the business impact? These questions are becoming increasingly common today. If they are going to spend those dollars, what are they going to get in return? L&D professionals are good at looking at the quality of the training and are constantly focused on improving the quality of development, quality of content and programs. But the shift has to happen from quality to impact.  

Learning as a collective responsibility 

As development practitioners, we need to be in people’s minds as somebody who would accelerate, categorize and have a real ROI to deliver. An ROI can be a collective responsibility of cultivating initiative and something that can be measured in real-time. One of the ROI that we are looking at right now is the ability for managers to conduct conversations that can help people think and do better. In the space we are in, we are struggling with two challenges, which are, retaining the talent and making sure that talent becomes productive as soon as it comes on board. 

Both of these challenges get measured through the interventions we do. Most of us do engagement services and therefore have easy access to the manager’s scorecard. One of our responses gets linked to the manager’s scorecard as a deliverable measure. Therefore it becomes a collective responsibility. It is very much measurable and yet it is not about behavior or results; it’s really about a conversation. Your ability to score well as a manager entirely depends on the type of conversations you have as a manager. That’s the linkage we all should look at. 

The cost of ignorance

“If somebody says training is costly, ask him what is the cost of ignorance.” It is not always about ROI. Yes, you can define ROI, but the fundamental ROI indicators in every organization would always be assessing scores, level one feedback, level two feedback, engagement surveys, cultural movements, etc. However, it is crucial for us to focus on a few. We need a shift in the mean and the median of the bell curve, mostly shifting it to the right, or we should focus on the 60-80% of that bell curve which probably won’t move as fast as you, or mainly, your business might want it to move. The primary question then would be: When it comes to learning, should we focus on everybody, or should we focus on a few?

ROI as a commitment 

ROI is equal to commitment. If there is a commitment among all the stakeholders who are involved in imparting any form of initiatives for development in their organizations, only then can it move towards measurement. We talk about processes and tools of measurement which are all a part of the execution, but the most important part is that if we think of ourselves as employees, then it’s a commitment to ourselves. 

We should be asking questions like “If this is what the organization has done for me then what is my ROI towards the organization”. Reporting manager is a significant role because the contribution to any organization is visible in the reporting manager’s performance. If you are the people manager, there are three components you need to focus on:

  •  You need to ask yourself if you are accountable for your people, looking after your people and giving them adequate opportunities. 
  • If you are, then are you measuring whether your people are really shifting in terms of skills, competencies, their proficiency levels, etc.
  • The most important is the organization. Organizations have to ask if they are committed to seeing the shift in the people. This commitment has to find a place in the overall organization development as well as the organization’s strategic plan. 

The responsibility to measure mileage 

The right measure is setting up a process is to evaluate, measure and integrate what comes out of an organization and it is the prime responsibility of the L&D function to do so. As a result, creating a framework is our responsibility, and when this responsibility is collective, they need to make sure that all the members are on-board. If you are investing in causes such as people development, then it is a collective responsibility. If we divide and give specific responsibilities, the creation of the framework would be much better and effective. 

Key Takeaways

In Delhi, the current AQI (Air Quality Index) is 190, which was once 450. Though the AQI is still severe, it is much better, relatively. This gives us the message to choose our own battles and compare our outcomes with our previous ones. One of the ways to learn is to put down an option of training wherein the learners get to choose what they want to learn. Don’t focus on 100% of the people learning and developing the organization for you instead focus on a few that would yield better and bring in more productivity. 


(This article is based on a panel discussion on  Measure for mileage conducted during the People Matters L&D Conference 2019.)

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Topics: Learning & Development, #PMLnD

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