THE TRAINING BOTTOM-LINE: 
LESSONS FROM 10 SOUTH AFRICAN ROI PROJECTS

By Marius Meyer & Rina Opperman, ROI ONLINE

INTRODUCTION 

When it comes to the field of ROI measurement in training programmes, we often quote American gurus, American statistics and American case studies. Well, now is the time to reflect on the state of ROI training measurement in South Africa.  This article provides a brief summary of the lessons learned from 10 ROI projects in South African companies over the last five years. ROI measurement is the process of calculating the financial bottom-line impact of training. We will first highlight some lessons, and provide guidelines to get you started. 

ROI CASE STUDIES 

This article summarises the lessons from ten ROI case studies in which we have been personally involved as consultants. These companies embarked on the process to measure the financial ROI of their training programmes. This also included the process of building capacity of HRD staff members in their training departments. Interestingly, four of the organisations are from the public sector and six from the private sector, showing that the public sector does not lag behind when it comes to ROI measurement. The following organisations present the case studies and learning points for this article. 

  • A national government department
  • A large clothing retailer
  • One of the world’s top mining companies
  • A university
  • A bank (one of the big four)
  • A parastatal
  • A SETA
  • A chemical company
  • Two of the largest manufacturing companies (both are global leaders)

LESSONS – WHAT ARE COMPANIES STRUGGLING WITH 

Reflecting on our learning from these organisations, the following lessons come to the fore: 

  • How to quantify the benefits of training: Companies are struggling to get data for the purpose of ROI measurement.
  • They are running training programmes based on “outcomes” and not business results.
  • They are not asking the right questions: Instead of asking questions about the impact of training, they are like academics and only pose learning questions.
  • We get A’s for Kirkpatrick Levels 1 and 2, F for 3 and G for 4 or 5: Companies are doing well when it comes to evaluating reaction and learning. But they struggle with behaviour and results evaluation.
  • There is an over-emphasis on the role of HRD, but not enough line management involvement.
  • Management is not well informed about ROI in training.
  • Likewise, learners are not well informed about ROI.
  • Organisations are assigning the wrong people to run ROI projects; rather enthusiastic and competent business partners should drive ROI.
  • HRD people have a passion for people, but not for measurement.
  • Unfortunately, HRD do not have a passion for line management and business goals, in fact, they are often ill-informed about the real business of the company.
  • A proper needs analysis is often neglected.
  • Companies attempt ROI calculations, yet no strategy for evaluation and measurement is in place.
  • HRD think that it is their job to satisfy the SETA and not the CEO.
  • HRD is not close enough to the business, especially operational level.
  • HRD is still very much in a comfort zone to get bums on seats.
  • No or limited skills transfer strategies are in place.
  • Prioritisation problems occur, and it is therefore not surprising that not enough time is spent on evaluation.
  • As HRD members we now have accreditation from SETAs and ETQAs, but still limited credibility within our organisations, especially from a line management perspective.
  • An accountability and measurement culture is lacking.

ROI GUIDELINES 

While the above lessons present quite a tall order, here are some guidelines to turn things around:

  • Get line management involved as soon as possible.
  • Work actively on relationships before you tackle the numbers.
  • HRD should first go and get their hands dirty – get to know the business.
  • Train line management and the training department, not only training!
  • Develop a measurement culture – get measures from line.
  • Involve learners as a key ROI stakeholder so that they can obtain ownership.
  • Read the company’s annual report to understand the business better.
  • Reprioritise training KPAs, put more emphasis on evaluation than on class room activity.
  • Focus on a more proactive and thorough needs analysis before training.
  • Develop an integrated evaluation and measurement strategy.
  • Integrate ROI with other business systems and processes such as ABC, IIP, TQM, SPC, ISO, JIT etc.
  • Ask the right questions to get the right answers.
  • Plan for ROI before training, not only after training.
  • Develop a clear skills transfer strategy to optimise ROI.

CONCLUSION 

Despite some obstacles and challenges in the field of ROI measurement, South African companies have learned how to make the paradigm shift from learning to results. The challenge is to work through these lessons and to embrace the guidelines proposed in this article. These critical success factors will assist training managers to show the bottom-line impact of their learning programmes. 

Marius Meyer and Rina Opperman consult for ROI ONLINE,
a training measurement specialist company.
They can be contacted on info@roionline.co.za