There are many times when I am speaking to other learning professionals that the question of ROI comes up. Is it possible to isolate training as the factor that tipped a metric to be more favorable? Can we really look at metrics for training with any sort of reliability?

I believe that we can and that it is easier than you think.  The first and most important goal is to start with the end in mind.

Before a learning project begins, the very first thing is to identify that the end goal is. This HAS to be measurable. Many times I hear things like, “We need them to know about this new behavior”, or “There is a new product coming out and we need them to be able to talk to customers about it” or “It is a requirement so they need training”. All of these are great beginnings to an end goal but they aren’t tied to anything measurable that will change performance or behavior in order to effect business goals.


Better measurable goals:

SMART Goals on wood background (Business Concept)




You will notice that each one of these goals is SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Now before you roll your eyes because you have heard this before, take a moment and assess each of your learning courses. Do they have these metrics? I can almost guarantee that most of them don’t. The reason for this is always surprising but most often it is that the course is just something that “HAS” to be created or we just needed to get it out there.






  1. Go through your current course list and identify how many of them have a specific measurable reason that they were created.
  2. Determine where your organization falls in the ranges below.

0-10% – No traction – Small training department or you are having trouble getting budget dollars to work on greater impact projects. Most of your projects are powerpoint deck conversions or click-through learning.

10-45% – Some traction – You have a medium-sized training department and the organization sees some value in the work that you do. You are mostly working on conversions and compliance projects but you do get a couple of high impact training projects each year. 

45%-75% – Traction – You have a training department that is valued within the organization and most likely a seat at the executive table. Business lines are coming to you with their performance problems and asking you to work with them to come up with high impact solutions that will improve employee performance and behavior. You are seen as a valuable player in the success of the business.

75-100% – Ultimate Traction – Your organization is a learning organization and values employees performance and behavior change as part of their core business practice. In most cases, a member of the learning team is involved in setting strategy with the executive team over large business initiatives. Powerpoint deck conversions, even for compliance are part of a employee-generated learning structure that is totally independent of the learning teams duties.

3. Practice moving outcomes to tie more with specific business results with the courses that you have. Are there any of them that could be tweaked with the business line owner to move the    needle in employee performance and behavior?

Let me know the results of your analysis. The next part of this article will provide the next step in determining ROI on your courses.