Future of learning blog

Measuring learning ROI: Is it worth the hassle?

Measuring learning ROI is a challenge for many and a delegate at the HR Leadership Summit 2020 made a very interesting question on the matter in our Q&A session:

Current return on learning (ROL) is too slow and too low.
Perhaps instead of putting our money into measuring ROI solutions we can put it straight into taking learning to the next level? 

This got us thinking, and we wanted to share our thoughts with you all. 


Why you shouldn’t measure learning ROI

However, measuring ROI can take a long time, and it’s not always easy to do. Paul Kearns, author of ‘Evaluating the ROI from learning’ suggests you don’t need to measure what is business critical or learning because it’s enjoyable. Similarly, Kearns claims you don’t need to measure the ROI on learning that people do out of curiosity. Instead invest your money and time in measuring ROI where it’s not clear whether it will have a business benefit or not.

However, we’re sure you all agree that all business training should have a clear business benefit, or what’s the point in organising it? Which leads us nicely into all the reasons you should measure learning ROI:


Why you should measure learning ROI

L&D has a bad reputation for being a cost-centre. A department that drains resources rather than making a business impact. But as learning professionals, we know that isn’t true. It’s our job to get L&D out of the box marked ‘cost centre’ in each of our organisations. 

Earlier this year we spoke to Laura Overton, ex-CEO of Towards Maturity and Partner at Tulser, on this exact topic. In this time of change, and with the onset of industry 4.0 demanding new skills, it’s time to prove the impact L&D can make. And to do this, we need to shift how the C-Suite sees L&D. Laura recommends that “when your workforce needs to upskill, don’t just take the order for more curricular. Instead, help your people build skill and competence in their particular role. Help them apply their knowledge in new situations.” 

It is in these situations that measuring the impact of learning is valuable. You have helped your people build new skills or competencies – now you need to prove to The Board that this has significant business impact (usually demonstrated in numbers). 


Why aren’t you seeing a real return on learning investment?

ROI in learning is often the elephant in the room. It’s the topic that many don’t want to talk about. This is mostly due to the fact that many know they aren’t getting a significant return on investment when it comes to learning. And the reason for this really comes down to the inclination to buy more tech to fix L&D problems. And if that doesn’t work – we blame the tech. 

It’s time we stopped that way of thinking. Relying on technology to fix learning and performance problems is simply papering over the cracks. Technology undoubtedly supports creation of learning cultures. But it does not in itself educate or facilitate performance change; that change comes from carefully planned and executed learning strategies designed to meet the specific needs of employees and the business.


So, should we invest in measuring learning ROI?

Yes. Always. Measuring the return on learning investment must be an integral part of any L&D activity. L&D has evolved, and is now too business critical to overlook ROI. You wouldn’t overlook ROI in other business functions, such as marketing, so learning should be no different.