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

When Low ROI Training is the
Right Thing to Do

high-volume, low-ROI training can make a lot of sense

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Your company pays for your training services in the hope of a return on their investment (ROI). That return is similar to the profit someone makes on selling material goods.

Some companies make a lot of money with a low-price, high-volume approach. Others manufacture high profit margin items, in much smaller numbers, for a narrower audience.

After all, office supply stores generate tens of billions dollars in sales every year. Some of that comes from the high-margin items, like computers. But plenty of it comes from paper clips and pencils and staplers, even though they may be making mere pennies on each of these items sold.

In short, properly applied, both strategies can be successful.

In the training business, however, we often get things mixed up. We tend to be pretty good at distributing the high-return, small-audience training, the stuff that is focused on a narrow audience and aimed at very specific skills or knowledge. But sometimes we deliver that training to too broad an audience, wasting resources. And sometimes we distribute a lot of training in a high-volume model when in fact a more focused, high-margin approach is what is needed.

Worst, however, is the opportunity lost to appropriately offer high-volume, low-return training that could truly benefit your company. Maybe it is a question of pride, but training departments don't seem to like to make the effort to deliver services that only produce a small return on each individual participant.

Like paper clips or soap or cotton balls, however, those individual returns can add up to a major benefit, if there are enough participants served.

Let's take a simple technology example. For high-return, low-volume training, it makes perfect sense to give, say, administrative and clerical staff advanced training on getting the most out of their word-processing software. That audience will spend a lot of time with that tool, and the company benefits if they can be more efficient, more responsive to those they support, and so on.

But I am fascinated when I watch people use computers, because they can be spectacularly inefficient. For instance, many rely on using the mouse to navigate menus, and to select "OK" in dialog boxes, dozens, even hundreds, of times a day, never realizing that in many of those situations they could leave their hands on the keyboard and strike the Enter key.

Simple and short training on how to use a few shortcuts, how to use the keyboard more and the mouse less, would probably save any given individual several minutes a day, at least. Not much of a return . . . but if everyone in the company saved time every day, week after week after week, the boost in efficiency could be enormous. If the training is delivered quickly and cost-efficiently (highly likely), the aggregate return could be quite significant.

This is just a simple example for discussion purposes. With some careful thought about how your company goes about its business, you are bound to be able to see much better examples of where high-volume, low-individual-return could benefit the company.

But the point is that what appears to be low ROI training, in terms of the individual participant, may actually make a good contribution to the company's success, if enough people are trained.

And that's your job, to make the company more successful, and the employees more efficient and effective. Don't look down your nose at simple training services that, applied thoroughly and widely enough, can really make a difference to your company's operations.

© 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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When Low ROI Training is the Right Thing to Do