You’ve poured countless hours into a new program and feel more prepared than ever to launch. It looks beautiful. You’ve tested it a million times. And you’ve gotten positive feedback from your peers already.
So you take your boss through the high-level plan one last time, thinking they’ll give you the go-ahead without a second thought.
But instead, they say, “Well, what kind of results are you expecting with this?”
Your heart drops into your stomach. Defeated, you go back to the drawing board.
Feel familiar? We thought so.
Today’s L&D professionals have one of the most thankless jobs in Corporate America. Yet their roles directly contribute to the success of enterprise organizations. And in times of economic uncertainty, getting higher-ups to connect the dots is even more critical.
But doing that is easier said than done. So to give you a headstart, we’ve put together a guide that walks you through five ways to maximize and publicize ROI across your organization.
L&D professionals are at a crossroads: figure out how to prove the merit of corporate training or lose budget, team members, and clout.
But how is that possible?
Before we dive into some actionable tips, let’s review what ROI is. The most basic formula for calculating ROI is:
L&D ROI = (L&D Benefits – Cost of L&D) / Cost of L&D x 100
In the simplest terms, you’re looking at the gross benefits of your programs (L&D Benefits - Cost) in the context of the total cost. A high L&D ROI percentage means that the benefits of your program outweigh what you’re spending to create them.
A low ROI could mean that: (1) employees aren’t benefitting as much as you thought or (2) you’re likely spending more than you should. This means we have two main levers to pull: increasing benefits and decreasing costs. Below, we’ll outline 5 ways to move those levers in the right direction.
If the Kirkpatrick Model wasn’t the first thing you learned about as a Learning & Development professional, it was probably the second or third. The Kirkpatrick Model has been the trusted paradigm for learning for decades, teaching us that learning will always happen in stages.
You need someone to react and engage with your material in order for them to finish it. You need them to finish it to adjust their behavior. And you need them to alter their behavior to see any organizational impact.
Despite the fact that most learning mechanisms are built with the Kirkpatrick Model in mind, they never make it past the point of engagement. The average program suffers from 90% dropoff in retention after 30 days, making it near-impossible to validate any behavior change, let alone impact to the company at large.
So, how do you work your way to the upper echelon? By:
How to do it
Hitting all four of those milestones listed above will take some rethinking and reformatting. Find ways to:
Talk to anyone who worked in the consulting industry before 2020, and they’ll tell you about how they spent their first week of work at a training center somewhere in the Midwest. In theory, these trainings promoted camaraderie, acquainted people with company culture, and standardized learning across practices and disciplines.
But over time, the Big Four began to realize how cost-inefficient that training really was. They had to pay for:
According to Forbes, even a small, one-time, in-person training event can cost $40,000. And the impact of in-person sessions doesn’t outweigh that cost. For example, an average adult has a maximum attention span of only 20 minutes — far shorter than most training sessions. Research also shows that people tend to forget information when it’s crammed into a short timeframe.
Going digital can eliminate the high costs associated with in-person learning and meet learners where they are: on their devices. With digital tools, you can offer bite-sized content in the flow of people’s work, such as:
This kind of “microlearning” pays off, improving learners’ focus and retention by up to 80%.
How to do it
If you don’t have a learning tool, find a solution that:
If you already have L&D software:
If you’re like most L&D folks, you want your peers to know the blood, sweat, and tears that went into your launches. Those late nights, stressful deadlines, and painful user testing sessions have to mean something, right?
While fellow L&D practitioners are vigorously nodding their heads in agreement, the reality is that your boss or CEO may not care about the effort you put in. Their chief concern is getting their money’s worth. They’re asking themselves:
And traditional corporate learning metrics like "time spent learning" or "number of attendees" don’t reflect true change in employee behavior or performance.
Although these KPIs might be easier to measure, they don’t mean as much in the grand scheme. So refocus your goals and objectives to drive the outcomes that matter.
How to do it
At an Arist workshop, we asked attendees to come up with a compelling ROI presentation based on a real course dataset. Although there were numerous CLOs in the audience, an engineer — someone with no L&D experience — gave the most convincing presentation. Whomp whomp.
But is that really a surprise? Chances are that you’ve presented to leadership in a QBR and their eyes glazed over. Or worse, people acted surprised to learn that your training strategy is working. While that’s better than negative feedback, it reveals that execs were skeptical about your program’s efficacy.
L&D isn’t always at the forefront of the C-Suite’s minds. Flashier marketing, sales, and product initiatives often get more airtime because of their tight connection with revenue.
But we all know that L&D can have a huge influence on revenue — upskilling staff can lead to greater curiosity, productivity, innovation, and collaboration. You just need to boost leadership’s confidence in those facts. And the way to do that is to hammer home ROI as often as possible.
The more people see the impact of learning and development, the more they’ll believe it. So don’t let your QBR deck be the first time leadership sees your metrics. Find ways to humble brag. Weave metrics into your storytelling. Share your metrics cross-functionally. Make the impact of learning come to life with employee quotes or anecdotes from their manager about how much their skills have improved.
How to do it
We’ve all taken that course where actors are wearing clothes from the 90s, technology looks like it came from the stone age, and cyberattackers are wearing sunglasses and black hoodies. These sequences produce nostalgia in Gen X-ers, the occasional laugh from your Millennial employees, and leave Gen Z-ers wondering, “what the heck is on-prem”?
No party is taking the actual content seriously.
Although it may not be as pronounced, this problem happens when organizations publish unrelatable sexual harassment training, outmoded leadership courses, or use outdated product and sales playbooks in employee onboarding.
The problem is that many L&D orgs have low data throughput, meaning they don’t have the analytics to justify pivoting their content in a timely manner. The typical quarterly assessment may show you that a certain course needs updating, but by then, it’s probably too late — a majority of the employees have already finished it.
The truth is, products, regulations, and priorities change all the time, and your learning curriculum has to be able to keep up.
As discussed in strategy #2, going digital can help you deploy new programs faster. That has the added benefit of dramatically increasing the volume of learner data you collect. From there, you can more easily (and quickly) determine what is working, what isn't, and how learning is actually being applied.
Shifting to more of a “continuous learning” model puts the point of measurement closer to the ground, allowing you to make data-driven decisions that accelerate your ROI.
How to do it
It’s every L&D leader’s dream to have an endless budget. But we can’t always get what we want.
Luckily, there are ways to get what we need. Being smarter about how we measure and demonstrate ROI using modern tools and cross-functional strategies can get everyone more excited and engaged with learning, creating a learning-application-outcomes flywheel. And when the whole company wants to get involved in something, it becomes more of a clear priority to leadership. The first step is picking the right learning tool.
Enter Arist, the microlearning platform that enables quicker iteration, more salient reporting, and higher engagement than any other L&D solution on the market. Trusted by EY, SAP, Axon Health, and DuPont, Arist produces substantial lifts in confidence, product knowledge, and soft skills through tools and devices employees already use.
Think you’re ready to take the leap? Make the case for Arist using our ROI calculator, or request a demo to see the power of microlearning firsthand.
ROI is an important metrics for measuring the impact of L&D — but calculating true ROI is more than just a numbers game
The Economics of Corporate Learning
Learning and Development is the most / direct route to aligning capabilities to business goals
Just 8% of L&D teams calculate their ROI, meaning 92% of L&D programs don’t have success metrics attached at all
Calculating The True ROI Of L&D In 2023
To effectively measure your L&D ROI, you need to acquire a corporate learning program with purpose, accessibility, and science-backed content
Creating And Measuring Corporate Learning With Arist
Use the Arist ROI Calculator to measure your L&D ROI in minutes