Workforce.com

Training's Holy Grail ROI

July 7, 2005

It's one of the most sought-after goals  in the training and development industry, and also one of the most elusive: determining return on investment, the measurement of how much impact a training program has on an organization.

    The problem is that measuring return on a training program is tricky. Most organizations test by comparing performance before and after a major training program. But results can be affected by factors other than training.

    As an example, Allison Rossett, a professor of educational technology and a training consultant at San Diego State University, says the problem can be illustrated by an umbrella company conducting a sales training program.

    "In a drought year, it doesn’t matter if you do classroom training, online training, interactive training," she says. "Sales is still a problem. But as soon as the skies open up, you look like a genius."

    One company has found a solution to the ROI question. The Center for Effective Performance in Atlanta, a worldwide training and development consulting firm, guarantees satisfaction. If a client doesn’t like the results, CEP will come back and try again.

    "Have we had to make adjustments? Of course," says Paula Alsher, vice president of client solutions at CEP. "But we’ve never had to go back and start from scratch."

    CEP’s program, based on the research and teachings of Robert Mager, begins with an analysis of a client’s systems and needs, which guide the development of training programs. Goals for skills and job performance are established upfront, and evaluations are conducted at the end.

    "You don’t always need to do a full ROI analysis," Alsher says. "But you want to make sure people at least acquire skills."

    In one recent case, Hilton Hotels asked CEP to devise a training program to help managers boost occupancy and revenue; a year later, Hilton’s revenue was up 61 percent.

    Was it the CEP training or simply a reflection of the lodging industry’s emergence from a slump? The company not only thinks its training had something to do with the surge, it guarantees it.

Workforce Management, July 2005, p. 57 --Subscribe Now!