Determination of the ROI of online training is a hot topic today. In this article, I outline a popular ROI methodology (using Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation), and 5 tips that you can use to maximize ROI in corporate training.
Let me begin with a few basic definitions related to ROI of online training first:
In general terms, Return on Investment (ROI) is the gain divided by the cost. In the same way, ROI in corporate training is the gain on account of the impact of the training divided by the training cost.
As suggested by Keri Bennington of UNC Kenan-Flager Business School in a report,
“ROI measures should be related to performance after the L&D experience and, according to some, tied to a dollar figure. For example, time saved or increased output (or both) as a result of improved performance following participation in a development program can then be compared to a dollar figure”.
To establish a positive ROI, the training initiative should be able to show a demonstrable gain more than the investment made. While, the definition of ROI in corporate training sounds simple enough, measuring this is can be a tall order.
Let me begin with the easier bit, that is determining the costs:
The value is the demonstrable gain for the learners and the organization. This is difficult to measure.
At EI Design, we have been working with the L&D teams across the world for over 16 years now. During this journey, we have used several approaches that you can implement to maximize the ROI of online training. Before outlining these approaches, let us look at one of the popular ROI methodologies.
Most of us are familiar with the Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation. In today’s context, adding Phillips’ ROI calculation as the fifth level makes this framework more useful and relevant.
This is how this combination would work:
To give you a sense of how it can be practically used, let me outline the approaches we, at EI Design, typically adopt to help our customers determine the ROI of their online training:
This level relates to the learner’s reaction and satisfaction. To obtain the learner’s feedback, we add surveys in the eLearning course. Today, we have the flexibility to also add other aspects that indicate a learner’s reaction by asking them if they “like the course” or would they “recommend the course”.
The classic approach to measuring what the learners learned (validate against the expected takeaways) is through summative assessments (at the end of the course).
This crucial aspect is certainly more difficult to measure. However, going back to the pointers collated during the Training Needs Analysis (TNA) provides the cues to assess if there has been a clear and demonstrable gain or not. This gain should be directly attributable to the online training.
The TNA would typically reflect the following aspects:
A few notable aspects:
As an extension to the exercise for Level 2 and 3, we now need to identify how will the desired business impact be measured.
Some of the parameters we use include:
When you convert the business impact to a monetary value, you can use it to compare against the costs incurred and arrive at the ROI of online training.
Now, I will share 5 tips that you can use to maximize the ROI of online training. You will note that each of these tips influences different levels of the Kirkpatrick’s model of evaluation.
These measures are easy to implement and will also enable you to assess the impact of each measure from Level 1 to Level 4 (of the Kirkpatrick model).
The entire exercise begins with the TNA where the current and desired competency mapping is done, and the expected learning gains or outcomes are identified.
However, the expected outcomes must go beyond the classic learning objectives and should include:
To fill the gap or aid the learner in picking up the required proficiency, the focus should now shift to the adoption of the right learning strategy. In the process, do look at establishing “learning as a continuum” and have an adequate blend of formal and informal learning.
Today, you are spoilt for choice on various immersive approaches that you can pick from and which can create “sticky learning” you desire. Notable among these are the following and when applied right they will help you meet your mandate.
Once the right learning strategy is in place, the focus shifts to the right assessment strategy:
Don’t depend on just one type of training (structured and formal). Provide a range of options that the learners can pick from. These should include:
Both during the development of online training as well as post-deployment, opt for a Litmus test, that is, obtain the learner’s feedback and check for continuous improvement to maximize the gain.
You can use this feedback to determine:
To summarize, the task of determining ROI of online training is a complex one. I hope this article provides some practical insights and tips that you can use to create a positive impact on ROI. If you have any queries, do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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