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‘Living’ the ROI of Training

In these times of doing less with more, the return on investment (ROI) of training is regularly in the spotlight.  However, to complete a comprehensive ROI analysis on a training programme is not for the faint-hearted, involving many hours of assessment and review.

A more practical and worthwhile approach in these lean times is what you might term ‘living’ an ROI.  By this we mean putting in place the scaffolding to support and embed participants’ learning

Living an ROI means spotting, as well as creating, the opportunities to embed new behaviours across the critical three to six month period following the training event.

Here are some tips that we and our clients use for embedding new behaviours:

  • Before the programme:
    • Get really clear on why are you going on the programme.  Your manager may have nominated you and so you could feel obliged or even angry, but ask yourself what possible benefits you could personally get from it.  Find something that resonates with you.
    • Spot ahead of time possible opportunities for applying what you’ve learned.  Ask the trainer during the programme for some ideas.
  • After the programme:
    • Within one to three weeks of going on the programme, present back key points  to those who care – to help embed the learning and build your commitment to making changes. While this approach is often unpopular, participants admit  that presenting is not only a useful way to refresh their knowledge, but also the very prospect of having to present made them apply some of their key learning.  We don’t like to look like ‘we’ve dropped the ball’ in front of our colleagues!
    • Put in place facilitated ‘cafes’ / discussions which drill down on the participants’ ‘trials and tribulations’ of applying new learning.  This could even be across business functions and feature different learning programmes.
    • Buddy up with a colleague.  Share your experiences of applying the learning. You’ll learn a lot from their experiences too.
    • Depending upon your thinking style, linking the new behaviours to a bigger picture can help.  For example, if I’ve just been on a course on Sustainable Business practices, I am more likely to be motivated to put my learnings into practice if I link that to a longer term career goal or my goal of personally becoming carbon neutral.
    • Put screen prompts / particular sounds, on mobile phones and laptops.  They can be a call for action for more visual / auditory learners.
    • Each of us to some extent responds to reinforcement from others.  Set up a pact with a couple of trustworthy colleagues to give you feedback on what they are noticing that is different since you’ve been on the programme.

But who has the time to do all of this?  We recommend taking some of these opportunities, rather than all of them.  We also believe that if you don’t go through the thinking of ‘how to apply this,’ you’re wasting time and money on training as a participant and as an organisation.

If we each implemented one new and pivotal behaviour from a training programme, two to four times a year, shared this and got traction from it, we would collectively and positively transform our business.  Incremental evolutionary change has the advantage of being able to adjust to the ever-changing business circumstances.  ‘Living’ an ROI (rather than doing a formal ROI exercise) is less expensive and good for both the organisation and the programme participant.

1 James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente developed a seminal model of change in 1982. The authors contend that it is quite normal for people to require several ‘trips’ through the five stages to make lasting change. They also found that it takes three to six months in the Action phase of individual change to really embed a new behaviour.


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