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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

Training ROI Is Not A Measure Of Support

will your internal clients support you when you don't have hard numbers?

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Being able to demonstrate tangible results is always good for your training department. You hear a lot of discussion about "return on investment" (ROI) among trainers, the idea being that having some hard numbers to show the impact of training will persuade internal clients of the value of the training function.

Looking for measurable results is certainly wise, although there are always training topics where it is a lot harder to directly measure outcomes and assess impact. Sometimes, in fact, the judgment of the supervisors of the trainees remains the very best assessment of the training's effectiveness.

Just don't get confused about the value of ROI measures. They are indeed useful as persuasive tools, helping you to convince, say, another department head to continue to invest in training efforts. Properly designed (a big IF, frankly), they are a direct indicator of the effectiveness of some of your training efforts.

In other words, they communicate information from the training department to the client departments. And they communicate information from the training department back to itself.

But ROI measures do not communicate information from clients to the training department. They tell you very little about whether your internal clients are happy with what you are doing, and whether they will support your future efforts. Don't look to ROI to tell you when some of those department heads start muttering about better ways to spend your budget.

Ironically, one of the best indicators of support among your internal clients is their tolerance, if not outright enthusiasm, for the programs you run that have rather "soft" ROI figures.

It doesn't take a leap of faith to support your training when the numbers show tangible business results. But it is a real vote of confidence when it is harder to see the exact impact of the training on the company's success. That proves management from other functions believes that you are doing a good job and contributing value.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy for this kind of support to go unrecognized in the obsession to collect "return on investment" data on training activities. If you are not actively engaged with your internal clients about all of your training work, not just the part of it that generates ROI figures easily, you are missing crucial opportunities to build relationships and garner support for your role in the company's ongoing and future success.

Where you can easily measure objective outcomes, do so.

Where you have to rely on more subjective approaches, do not make excuses, do not downplay the contribution that particular training may make to the company. Have the courage to look your internal clients in the eye and discuss the benefits of what you are doing, even if you can't put numbers on it.

Don't be satisfied with a vague agreement that you're not sure how the training is working, just because you lack hard numbers. Come to a decision with your internal client about whether the training is working, thumbs up or thumbs down.

Your clients' feelings, not just their numbers, are the foundation of your support within the company.

© 2012 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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