Adding Value to Volume

Resolving to capture learning's true value to the organization.

The end of the year is a time to take stock of where we have been professionally and personally over the last 12 months. Based on this analysis, we then look to make adjustments and craft resolutions to hold ourselves to those adjustments in order to achieve our goals in the following year.

In this issue, you have seen pages of data that seek to quantify where we stand as an industry in 2013. The traditional measures of total training expenditure, average training spend per employee, and blend of learning modalities being applied have significant utility in painting a snapshot of where we stand today as an industry.

At the same time, one of the internal challenges I always have wrestled with as I review these state-of-the- industry reports is that these measures—while useful in quantifying the throughput and volume of training for any given year—provide little insight into the output and value of the learning that this training delivers to the organization.


To earn the credibility we deserve as human capital management professionals, we need to not only provide evidence of the efficiency with which we design and deliver our training offerings but also the effectiveness that these offerings deliver to the business. In training jargon, we call this Level 4 (Business Impact/Results) and/or Level 5 (Return on Investment) evaluation.

Consider for a moment that in all the years I have been reviewing industry reports, I have never seen a statistic where more than 40 percent of organizations surveyed evaluate their offerings at Level 4 or Level 5 (the exception is Training Top 125 organizations, with 88 percent of them reporting they utilized Level 4 reporting in 2013). The corollary to this is that 60 percent of those other organizations are not systematically measuring the output and value of the learning offerings they are designing and delivering.

In these difficult economic times, when the rhetoric about the need for investment in human capital to drive growth on a global scale is thick, one might assume that there may not be a need to bring evidence of value to the executives in charge of the purse strings. Their recognition of the global war for talent should be enough for them to justify the investment they make in training, should it not?

My own experience, however, suggests the opposite. In challenging economic times, executives charged with making investment decisions often require more evidence that the investment will yield a return. At their level, they are trading off placing the investment in training programs against options such as launching a new marketing campaign, hiring more sales staff, forming a new product development team, or implementing a new enterprise software package.

In each of those other instances, including the marketing campaign, those who seek to convince the executive to choose their option over the training investment often provide much more solid and compelling evidence on the output and value that the investment will yield. This leaves the executive in a position where, while he or she might truly believe that investing in the development of human capital is the right thing to do, the evidence suggests that investing elsewhere ultimately would deliver more value to the organization.


So, as we round the corner on 2013 and head into the New Year, perhaps as an industry we can take on the collective challenge to be more resolute in focusing not only on measuring the throughput and volume of training provided but also the output and value the learning delivered to the business creates.

Like all New Year’s resolutions, cultivating this new habit will not be easy. The evidence suggests that, at best, only 4 in 10 of us has successfully developed a discipline of capturing the value that learning delivers. But if each of us were to commit in a deliberate way to capturing the evidence of the value we create, our opportunity to secure more investment for what we all believe is the most critical organizational investment for the future might be easier to obtain.

I wish each and every one of you a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year, and I look forward to seeing more organizations following in the footsteps of Training Top 125 winners and measuring learning’s output.

Tony O’Driscoll is regional managing director of Duke CE in Singapore, where he focuses on identifying and implementing next-generation learning strategies and approaches that accelerate the development of Leadership Sense-Abilities in this rapidly growing part of the world.