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Getting a Return on your Investment in Project Management Training

Can’t justify project management training budgets? Can’t see the benefits of training spend in increased project success rates? Here are some hints on how to see if training pays.

Think about training as a project. What is the aim of training? Is there a problem to be solved with perhaps some projects failing to deliver on time, or stakeholder engagement being poor or with absenteeism being high? Think about which staff need to be trained, about training costs and delivery options, evaluation choices, about measurable objectives, and so on.

The Kirkpatrick/Phillips model can measure the benefit of training over five levels. You can determine the levels to use based on an evaluation of whether you need to consider the impact of training on the trainee and the job, or a particular business result, or on more. For a full evaluation you would measure training through levels 1) to 5). Being generally more costly in time and money it best suits programmes where the following are significant: management interest, costs, visibility, size of target audience and role in helping the company achieve its objectives. The five levels are:

1. Participants’ reaction to training

2. Trainees’ learning of what they have been taught

3. Application of learning on the job by trainees

4. Impact on business of training measured by increases in areas such as productivity

5. Return on investment through giving a full monetary value to the data.

Calculating the ROI of training requires several steps:

1. Identify the appropriate indicators

2. Plan and carry out collection of data prior to and after training so that you can measure improvements against a baseline

3. Determine what you would class as one unit of improvement

4. Allocate a monetary value to that unit

5. Calculate the change in performance between the start and end of training

6. Assess the annual amount for the change

7. Calculate the annual value of the improvement

8. Isolate the effects of training by considering other factors that might have caused the improvement

9. Factor in training costs

10. Calculate the ROI

It is worth remembering that: there are intangible benefits to training, such as staff morale and attitudes to the job and company; the nature of training has changed with the rise of elearning, mlearning and coaching so training is less discrete than before; research shows that training can only be successful if it is supported at every point by the whole organisation.

Helpful Hints

1. Evaluating reactions: establish information required; design a form that will quantify reactions (you could grade answer options); set a standard against which to measure responses; ensure a full response; gauge reactions, adjust for variables such as bias.

2. Evaluating learning: use a control group for a more scientific evaluation; evaluate knowledge, skills and attitudes before and after training; use a written and performance test.

3. Evaluating behaviour/application: use a control group for a more objective evaluation; measure before and then at appropriate intervals after training – to check how well it is embedded in trainees; have them develop an action plan and then survey managers to review its effectiveness; adjust for variables such as bias.

4. Evaluating business impact: use project reporting and control systems to provide evidence for this by looking at areas such as productivity and efficiency.

5. Isolating the effects of training: use a control group, use trend lines, use expertise of trainees and managers; adjust for variables such as bias.

6. Factoring in costs: count training costs; count design and development expenses of internal training programmes; include costs of external training, look at costs of facilities; include opportunity costs, and so on.

7. Calculating ROI: Training Benefits ÷ Training Costs x 100 = ROI percentage.