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What Works in Professional Development: The ROI of Training, Part 1

Create the Narrative to Establish Training Goals and Baselines

Have you ever asked or been asked any of the following questions: What are the benefits of spending all this money on training? What are we going to gain? How is training going to help us improve? What is the ROI of this training? The final question is ultimately the most important and most difficult to answer.

We all know training is important, we all know we must do it, where organizations fail is around creating a compelling narrative calculating and communicating ROI. The choice of the word narrative is deliberate, and it is important to craft a story around ROI, especially when that story is related to training.

So where do you start in creating your training ROI narrative that explains and supports your need for training? First, you must start at the beginning by creating specific training goals. Now, this sounds like a no brainer, right? Of course, you have to have goals. As a consultant and educator with more than 20 years of experience who has conducted hundreds of engagements, I can tell you that more than 75% of the organizations I worked with did not have training goals or objectives established. As the consultant, I had to come in and help the organization establish overall program goals and then training objectives.  Many organizations didn’t even know where to start the process.

Training goals are the ultimate business outcomes that you want to achieve and should relate to what you are wanting to ultimately measure your ROI on. “What business outcomes does training need to address?” is the first question to ask and answer when creating training goals. Training goals for a service and support center can include goals such as improving the customer experience, increasing employee engagement and satisfaction, improving operational efficiency, and reducing costs. Keep in mind training goals are vital whether you are creating a large training program for your entire service and support center or training goals for just a specific training need. Large or small, establishing training goals are vital.

Once training goals are established, then in order to establish learning objectives, we must baseline our current state. Before you start to build your learning objectives you must understand where your performance levels are at now, then build training that specifically targets the levels you want to achieve. A baseline allows you to hone in on specific deficiencies that you can measure, document, and improve. This is what you ultimately tie your ROI calculations to. Again, this is another commonly missed step in the process, creating learning objectives. Think of the training goals as answering the overall what we want to achieve. The learning objectives start to narrow in on the why, when, and how. Before you can build your objectives, conduct a baseline. Let’s put this all together so it starts to build our narrative:

Training Goal: Improve customer experience.

Baseline Data: Collect customer satisfaction, net promoter score, and customer effort score across all levels with one-time surveys, transactional surveys, and annual surveys. Quality scores are an important part of increasing the customer experience. What are your current scores? In what areas do you see scoring patterns?

Learning Objectives: Based on baseline results, you can create specific learning objectives to incorporate into your training plan. You may also want to set a metric or indicator for how much you want to improve. For example, in your baseline assessment, greeting the customer is one of the lowest scoring areas on your quality scorecard. Perhaps your analysts are performing the greeting, but it’s not based on your current standard operating procedure. Or in many instances, in my experience, analysts are using the greeting SOP but the tone in which they are saying it is not customer service oriented, which impacts the customer experience.

  • Learning Objective: “Understand the importance of greeting the customer.” Greeting the customer is part of the customer experience.
  • Learning Objective: “Perform the three-step customer greeting process.” Analysts not only need to understand the importance, they need to be able to apply and perform the steps required to complete a customer greeting, including proper tone and delivery. We also need to understand how the greeting process is performed through all delivery channels: phone, chat, email, walk-up desk, and customer onsite visit.

This is just the first step in the process: creating your narrative by developing your training goals, baselining current performance, and creating actionable learning objectives. In the next steps, we’ll discuss how to further develop the narrative by developing your training measurements, then ultimately developing ROI.