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Mapping the ROI of eLearning in Seven Strategies


1. Expand your definition of “success.” Before you create a plan, you should know what defines success for your organization. One primary question to ask is: “Were bottom-line outcomes achieved?” ‘Hmmm…’ you ponder via internal monologue, ‘What bottom-line objective?’ Good question. 

2. Show me the data. By the time training initiatives are handed down from on high, it’s often hard for the project manager and development team to see why a specific training program was initiated.

For an ROI evaluation you will need the actual data showing the gap between current performance and desired performance so you can demonstrate that your training helped to bridge the gap. Who can help you access that data? 

3. Get some C-Support. You're going to need data that’s available at the C-level in your company: CEO, CIO, CFO, etc. If you’re not sure what’s important to your C-level executives, look at department initiatives, the top yearly/quarterly priorities, the growth areas within your business, or the areas where market growth are inhibited.

Try framing your training initiatives to C-Level executives this way: “We can’t do an ROI evaluation without seeing how the existing gap hurts our business. Will you help us understand that business need by using actual numbers?”

4. Is this a training problem? Once you have business data, you cannot assume that training automatically bridges the performance gap. Undesired performance could be related to a number of non-training causes, such as employee incentives, specific personnel, business process, available tools, support, the weather, etc. Only further analysis will reveal if the problem can be resolved through training.

5. Perform analysis. Roll up your sleeves because it’s time for some old-fashioned gap analysis. First, follow the clues the business data has revealed. Who collected this data and how? Who can help you get a more detailed view of the data? Were the right questions asked in searching for explanations?

For the next step, Allison Rossett's First Things Fast is an excellent resource to get you prepared to conduct your analysis quickly.

6. Isolate the training variable. Perhaps your in-depth analysis reveals that lack-of-training results in 22% more calls to the Help Desk, or that missed sales opportunities creates $1 million in lost revenue. First, pat yourself on the back. It’s rare to get this far in isolating the ROI variable(s). Second, get the word out. Make sure that your C-support person understands the piece training can influence. Make sure your analysis results are known from top to bottom of your learning food chain. Say it loud.

7. The big ROI secret. Now that you’ve isolated the training variable, you’re done with the hard part. If you isolate your training variable(s), your analysis results illuminate A) how to design and construct the training and B) metrics to evaluate the finished course.

For example, say that your analysis uncovered $1 million revenue missed because the sales force doesn’t know how to recognize additional opportunities with existing customers. It logically follows that the training hones their skills on recognizing opportunities and practicing a modified sales call process with their existing customers. How would you know if your training hit the mark? Sales would increase by roughly $1 million dollars!

The big mistake is assuming that evaluation, including ROI assessment, follows the training. No, it begins long before the first prototype. That ROI variable is the shining beacon of success, illuminating the path throughout the development and construction of the training project.


*excerpted from Ted Manning’s “ROI – Quit talking about it”