IT struggles with L&D ROI

by 29 May 2007

FEW ORGANISATIONS treat formal learning initiatives, generally delivered as training programs, like a business initiative worthy of evaluation of payback, according to a global IT consulting firm.

The main challenge for IT workers employed in a dynamic environment is to keep up, and training is just one means of providing the required learning opportunities to stay competitive.

“To conform to good business practice, any business initiative that costs time and money for design and execution, and which often takes people away from performing their regular jobs, should somehow set expectations for a return on investment (ROI),” said Andrew Walker, research director for Gartner EXP’s human capital management content development group.

“Too frequently, the measures used for determining the value of learning are input measures and are of little help,”Walker said.

“Therefore, organisations must do the additional work of comparing the return against the investment. Informed decisions can then be made about what learning merits investment in the future.”

Once the decision has been made to evaluate learning initiatives, organisations should also evaluate different types of learning and their impact. Many IT organisations spend between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of their IT budgets on curriculum-based or pre-defined and designed formal learning programs, and even more when project training costs are included.

The most adaptable approach to evaluating the benefits of learning is a stage-by-stage approach.

Demonstrating a return from the learning process and relating it back to the targets in a balanced scorecard, or other dashboards that reflect business strategy, make it more difficult to simply cut the budget exponentially.

The risk of doing so can now be quantified in terms of benchmark comparisons, and learning can be demonstrated to support overarching strategic metrics, such as customer satisfaction, financial efficiency, quality and employee retention.

“There will never be a perfect world in which to measure the outcomes of learning initiatives. Despite all this, there are still compelling reasons for doing so, including ensuring that value of some sort is being created through learning initiatives, making effective decisions concerning learning objectives, and understanding the organisational impact of learning initiatives,” Walker said.


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