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Ask a Trainer: Why Is ROI So Important?

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In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Jack and Patti Phillips weigh in about why it’s important for trainers to understand ROI.

Dear Jack and Patti,

I’ve worked in the talent development field for a while now. I love my work, but I find evaluation to be a real struggle. It’s hard to find the time to evaluate my programs in a thoughtful way, especially when it comes to return on investment (ROI). I think the problem is that I see training as intrinsically valuable, so I don’t think in terms of ROI. Why is ROI so important, and how can I as a trainer keep that importance top of mind?


Jack Phillips: There are many reasons why ROI is important. First, it helps trainers and talent development professionals justify their budgets. ROI Institute has six clients with talent development budgets of more than $1 billion. When executives spend that kind of money, you have to show them what they are getting in return For a particular project or program, you need to show the costs and the benefits—and the ROI compares the two.

As a trainer, I suggest focusing on ROI not just from a business perspective, but as a form of constant process improvement to help you improve your training programs. You can’t improve without knowing how the programs are working and not working and where to make improvements.

ROI also helps you build respect for learning and develop strong partnerships. Influence, partnership, and respect are vital in an organization and showing your contribution to the business can help you earn that respect.

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Patti Phillips: ROI also helps with resource allocation, which is important for trainers and funders. Trainers can use ROI to help influence the choices that funders make. Without a metric to help them judge the value of the different alternative solutions, funders are just going to make a choice based on what they believe to be true. They may do that anyway, but with the ROI metric, we can try to influence those choices.


Learn more about ROI from Jack and Patti Phillips on the ATD Accidental Trainer podcast. Their episode will air on June 17, 2020.

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If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub. Tim will be back next week to tackle a new question.


We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Jack J. Phillips, PhD, is chairman of the ROI Institute and a world-renowned expert on measurement and evaluation. Phillips provides consulting services for Fortune 500 companies and workshops for major conference providers worldwide. Phillips is also the author or editor of more than 100 articles and more than 75 books, including Measuring the Success of Leadership Development: A Step-by-Step Guide for Measuring Impact and Calculating ROI (ATD Press). His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fortune, and on CNN.

About the Author

Patti Phillips is president and CEO of the ROI Institute and is the ATD Certification Institute's 2015 CPLP Fellow. Since 1997, she has worked with organizations in more than 60 countries as they demonstrate the value of a variety of programs and projects. Patti serves on the board of the Center for Talent Reporting, as Distinguished Principal Research Fellow for The Conference Board, and as faculty on the UN System Staff College in Turin, Italy.

Patti has written and edited numerous books and articles on the topics of measurement, evaluation, and ROI. Recent publications include Measuring the Success of Leadership Development, Making Human Capital Analytics Work, Measuring the Success of Learning Through Technology, Measuring the Success of Organization Development, and Measuring Leadership Development: Quantify Your Program's Impact and ROI on Organizational Performance.

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