Chapter 6: Why look for a “Return On Investment” in Training? (from the Book: the Reason)

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

By Robert Bluett, Founder & Chairman of People Plus

Read This First: Sharing Ten Minute Ideas

This is not what is generally accepted as a book, it is a sequence of ideas which are critical to the future development of the people aspect in business. These are put forward on the basic understanding that everything can be improved upon, and will be so far into the future.

As the environment changes in the market, so does the need within the organisation to address these issues, which present themselves at that time in the market – continuous development. 

These writings are in hard and soft copy, and refer to a website where there is on-going discussion over the application and validity of these ideas. 

The sections (Chapters?) are not necessarily in a sequential order, you can start anywhere in the book. 

This is how each section is structured:
The idea is captured in the heading, why the situation exists. 
(1 minute to read this)

The main points follow to explain how the situation developed. 
(2 minutes to read)

Then what can be done about it. (Maximum 5 minutes to get this)

The above three points give an introduction to the ideas, and if this is of interest, then you can read further or go to the website for more information.

How did this situation develop?

  • In the past Trainers only had to impart the knowledge to the participants, that was the job.

  • Pre and post tests assessed if the trainees had learned anything, but what was learned was not usually applied to the work, to see an improvement in performance and behaviour.

  • Files were issued and certificates awarded, but nothing related to improved performance.

  • None of these could be connected to individual development in performance or behaviour.

  • For the same reason team output could not be measured in relation to the training.

  • Therefore this could not be linked to top and bottom line improvement. (Money Lost)


What can be done about this?

Let’s start with an quote:

“When the change in the market exceeds the development within the company, the company has begun to fall behind, and will soon not be relevant.”

So what has this got to do with learning and development?

The development within the company must be at the same pace or ahead of the changes in the market, only then can they meet the expectations of the customers.

So how can this be done? All learning and development has to focus on the developmental needs within the company, this is step one.

Step two: Ensure that these developments are based on real needs, the focus has to be on tasks that lead to improved team output.

To support this, the timing of the review sessions has to be within short cycle reviews – i.e. weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings. (One-on-One) or (One-on-Many)

The key to this is the individual’s or the team’s Action Plan.


Understanding the cause of the problem is the first step to solving it.

So what is the Problem? There is no information available to connect the money, time and energy spent on developing people with the improvement or lack of improvement in top and bottom line of the company.

What is the cause of the Problem? No data to back up assumptions.

With this in mind let’s begin to see how we can address this situation with minimal time, money and effort.


Measuring so we can manage: (Starting with the bigger picture)

The first step is to measure what the team / company aims to achieve in the medium term i.e. over the next 12 to 24 months. We can call this the strategy / plan / road map.

Having a longer term focus in terms of a Vision – this is what we aim to achieve in longer term, let’s say 60 months. And how we will accomplish the Vision, will be spelled out in the Mission. Let’s assume if we need a Vision / Mission, then we have it in place, and if we do not need it, we can merely aim at our medium goals / targets / outputs. In our plan we decide what are the critical factors that we need to focus attention on in order to keep abreast of the needs in the market or better still slightly ahead of the market. We can call these the ‘strategic objectives’ or ‘key performance areas’. Not sure we need this?

Having defined the outputs needed, we have to decide how we will then measure these, so as to be able to calculate gradual progress towards each of the targets.


Here is an example:

Strategic Objective: “We will have a positive cash flow throughout the year”.

Objective Key Result (OKR) “Total Revenue will exceed total costs on a monthly basis”.

So this then gets cascaded down throughout the team, with various people being accountable for smaller aspects of the Monthly Revenue, all the others would be accountable for costs.

Now let’s assume production is having difficulty in keeping their costs within the allotted amount, and this is due to one particular person who is finding it hard to keep the costs down.

Now we get into the detail or smaller picture.

The team produces a cloth bag that is filled with polystyrene to keep cooking pots hot and allows food to cook with only small amount of energy used. The pattern for the cloth bags is difficult to cut, with a small margin for error, and this individual is finding it hard to complete in the allocated time. Therefore the person produces less on a daily basis. Leading to overtime to achieve the production target.

The solution? Some form of training? Not necessarily, because the cause of the problem needs to be identified and the appropriate solution agreed upon.

Here are some of the reasons why training might not improve performance.

  1. Does the person have the right tools or sufficient resources?

  2. Has the person clearly understood their assignment?

  3. Do they get sufficient support from their peers?

  4. Is there anything personal that is hindering their performance?

  5. Has the issue of poor performance been discussed many times in the past?

With all of the above training will not bring about improved performance.

6. Do they understand how to do the task?

[A need to improve knowledge and / or understanding of the task]

7. They know what to do but have not gained sufficient experience. [They understand what to do, but do not know how to do it - Skill. Need experience to improve skill]

Only points 6 and 7 are training needs.

Key point:If someone consistently fails to achieve a target, this does not automatically mean they need training

An example of wrong tools could be the wrong type of scissors which are not sharp and therefore the person is slower than the others in production. Training will not help in this instance.

Assuming they do not really understand what to do and need to be trained in the skill of cutting on the cutting table

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