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7 ways leaders can affect training’s return on investment

4 min read


Kevin Eikenberry is a expert on leadership development, a best-selling author, speaker, trainer, consultant and coach. You can learn more about him and read more of his writing on his blog.

People often talk about increasing the return on investment for training, and generally, most people point to others to be responsible for that return. The reality is that there are three groups and one other factor that have significant impact on that rate of return, and they work together like the four legs on a chair.

Like a chair, when any of them are weakened, the chair is less safe (or in our case, ROI is damaged) — if a leg is missing completely, watch out! Since discussing the four legs of training’s ROI chair in detail goes far beyond the scope of this article, let’s just identify them and talk about how they relate to you as a leader.

Spoiler alert: One of the legs is you.

The four legs

  • The trainer. They are responsible for what is delivered (and available to be learned) as well as the environment and process for how it is delivered.
  • The learner. They are responsible for being open to the learning, looking for ways to apply it and deciding to do so when they get back to work.
  • The leader. They are responsible for helping the learners see the value, holding them accountable and much more.
  • The work environment. The culture and working environment affects everyone’s behavior, attitude and performance in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

As a leader, you also have significant influence over the work environment as well.

The bottom line? When it comes to increasing the ROI of your training investment, stop blaming others and look in the mirror. Once you’ve realized that, what can you do? I’m glad you asked.

What you can do
Here are seven actions that will have both an immediate and long-term impact on the ROI of all your training investments:

  1. Pick the right experience. Learn what the learning objectives of the workshop are — and match the workshop with the needs of the individual. Make sure you are sending people to the right experience for the right reasons at the right time.
  2. Talk to people before they go. Discuss their goals for the learning experience and let them know your expectations of application. Set up a time after the training to get back together to discuss it.
  3. Meet with people after they return. Have people share what they learned and what actions they plan to take. Find out what you can do to support their learning and application, and again, set up expectations for implementation.
  4. Follow up. Follow up on their learning and actions — hold them accountable. Be encouraging and supportive of their growth and application.
  5. Set overall expectations for application and growth. This goes beyond a single person and a single training investment. As a leader, let people know that you expect them to learn from training and apply what they’ve learned. Let people know that mistakes and bobbles are OK if they are in the pursuit of improvement.
  6. Support all learning and development. Not all learning takes place in a workshop, and not all learning requires an investment of dollars. You increase your overall ROI when you encourage and support learning both formally and informally, all the time.
  7. Be a learner yourself. The most direct thing you can do, and the thing you have 100% control over, is to model the behavior of being a learner, and applying what you learn! This includes letting your team know what you are trying to improve and asking for their feedback and support, being open about your mistakes, and consistently working to improve your behavior, skills and performance. While all the other items are important, your behavior will more powerful than you might think.

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