The ROI For Employee Training Crisis – Where Is the Money Going?

How can you maximize the ROI on the investment that you make in training your employees?
How can you maximize the ROI on the investment that you make in training your employees?

So you’ve decided that your department / team needs to get some fancy training. Great – more knowledge is always better right? Hold on a minute, maybe not. What happens if after you’ve paid for all of this wonderful training and even some certification (CISSP, CNE, PMP, etc.) your employee decides to walk out the door? That would be the workplace equivalent of buying a new car and then driving it off the lot and immediately totaling it by smashing it into a wall. What can you do to boost your chances of getting a good return on your investment (ROI)?

Staffing flexibility is a challenge without your pricey investments leaving once you’ve sunk your money into making them better than they were. Now I must confess that I am a sinner when it comes to taking the training and running. I ended up getting three additional college degrees that were paid for by my then employers. This might be just a bit different from what we’re talking about here because (1) that work was done at night, and (2) I hung around for at least 4 years each time so that I could finish the degree up. What we’re really talking about here is the more expensive stuff.

Once upon a time, when the only way to get new management was to grow it inside the company it was probably ok to not keep track of what kind of payback you were getting from your training dollars. However, now that company loyalty has gone the way of the pension, it’s probably a good time to take another look. Ultimately, training is an investment just like everything else the company spends its money on and you sure would like to maximize your return.

How to do this? One quick and easy way to get a better return on your training investment is to lower your costs. The fastest way to do this is to find a way to get your employees to share in the cost of the training. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Here’s the thing: your employees fully understand that certain types of training will make them more valuable. Getting them to shoulder part of the cost may not be as difficult as you might think. Specifically, if the training is going to be accomplished by having the employee take on a learning project, then consider having them do this in addition to their normal job (this way you don’t have to hire in order to backfill their position). The employee gets valuable experience and access to other parts of the company. The cost to them is that they pay for it with their personal time.

A slightly more Draconian approach is to ask an employee who is preparing to receive some training to sign a contract stating that after they complete the training they will stick around for some minimum amount of time or they will be responsible for paying back some portion of the training costs. It turns out that about 20% of U.S. firms have some sort of system like this in place already. What’s interesting about this approach is that often times if the employee does decide to leave before their agreed to time is up, then the firm that hires the employee will end up paying the training fee. You will still miss the employee; however, your training budget will appreciate the pay back.

Finally, there is one more way to handle the issue of maximizing your return on training investments. If an employee that you’ve trained does leave, then perhaps keeping in touch with them and keeping them posted on changes and events at the firm would be a good idea. This is a relatively small investment and yet the next time that that employee decides to switch jobs, there is a good chance that if they’ve been kept in the loop then they may consider returning to work for your firm. Now that would be a real return on your training investment!

So which approach would work for your firm? Do you do any tracking today of what kind of return you are getting on your training investments? Do you feel that training an employee makes them more or less likely to leave once the training has been completed? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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