The challenge of implementing ROI and evaluation in a comprehensive
and sustained way requires a range of responses, including capacity
building, competence development, the adoption of new methods, and
changes in processes and behaviors. For many practitioners to
sustain ROI beyond the first study, and more crucially, ensure that
it becomes integrated in the learning and development function has
been a daunting task. Success requires a clear and disciplined
strategy. Here are six key steps to consider:
Step 1: Build Awareness
Be specific. Know the concept and detail of the ROI/Evaluation
method or process you are implementing. Then, explain the model and
explain what you propose to do to managers or clients and people in
a position to influence implementation.
Don't skimp on this step. Use good materials, clearly written with
diagrams and charts. Test them beforehand. Put up posters, get
mentioned in newsletters and bulletins. Use your intranet or set-up
a blog on the Internet. Use every opportunity to make the case,
especially where issues have to do with value and return.
The German manufacturer of heavy dies and tools, Apple AG, faced
the task of self-insuring the operations at its manufacturing plant
in South East Ireland. The Safety and Training Officer thought this
would be a good issue on which to apply the ROI methodology and
conducted an ROI study of the impact of training and support of
safety personnel on the company's operations. Not only was the
result a positive ROI, but the exercise helped build awareness of
how the process works. This is an example of how to piggyback on
other issues, events, and activities to build awareness about what
you are doing.
Step 2: Build Alliances
Identify potential champions. Then, bring them on board by
- knowing what's important for them in terms of ROI and
- showing them how the method meets their needs
- showing them how implementation can add value to the
A key goal of the HR department in Braun Oral B (Ireland), part of
the Gillette organization, was to become more integrated with the
shop floor. The company also wanted to standardize the approach to
problem solving on the shop floor and move toward operating in
multifunctional teams. A pilot problem-solving training program
presented the opportunity to build important alliances and the ROI
study was the main vehicle for achieving this purpose. It brought
the HR team, with its unique ROI evaluation capacity, into a
central role in the group responsible for the project and created a
pool of potential champions for the ROI process going forward.
Step 3: Build Competence
If you can do it, you can sell it! And if you can't, develop your
knowledge, skill, and ability to undertake full ROI studies. Take
part in the ASTD International Conference within a Conference on
ROI and Evaluation. Read the huge range of ASTD case studies and
training manuals on ROI. But don't assume that just by reading up
on this stuff that you understand it and can then implement it.
There is no substitute for taking part in professional training
programs. I recently attended a briefing by the CLO of a European
subsidiary of a major multi-national corporation where he spelled
out how the company has a comprehensive ROI evaluation strategy for
all its programs. When I asked how he isolated the impact of the
learning programs from other factors, he was stumped. He wasn't
using any isolation method. "We don't really need to do that," he
said. But after the event, he contacted me to discuss how he might
Step 4: Build Adoption
Set realistic targets and meet them. After you get some
comprehensive training, carry out some studies, or at the very
least do one study. It may be a good idea to plan a series of
studies (two or three) over a 12 month period. Chose the programs
carefully based on transparent and consistent criteria. Jack
Phillips has identified six criteria for choosing the right
programs: lifecycle of the program, size of audience, cost,
visibility within the organization, link to strategic objectives,
and management interest.
Half finished work is of little benefit to you or your
organization. Finish the studies and make sure they are valid and
accurate by getting a second opinion from other skilled
practitioners. Finally, write it up, it helps you identify
learning, record achievement, and build credibility.
Step 5: Build Acceptance
The quickest way to get recognized inside the organization is to
get your study published outside the organization! Credibility of
results enhances acceptance, make sure it's done correctly.
Acknowledge involvement of others in the study.
Step 6: Build Organizational Capacity
The organization (not just you) must adopt the process in order for
it to be sustained in the long term. It is never desirable to
plough a lone furrow in this work. Get others actively involved
early on. Make sure they are fully trained and skilled to use the
method. Include as many departments as possible. The support,
advice, and insights of colleagues are hugely valuable. Create a
buzz around the process.
Three words to create successful practice:
- Resolve. Don't just think about it, get that
training and then get that ROI study completed.
- Renew your energy by staying in touch with other
practitioners who face the same issues as you.
- Review what you are doing and how far you have
Then go out and celebrate!