Not too long ago I began my ROI certification with the ROI Institute. There, I learned probably some of the best instructional design, even organizational development, skills I’ll ever need to use. The way I see it, many organizations have training as an under-utilized necessary but dubious department. Really, if you could press them and they would be honest, I bet in many companies you’ll find it as a “necessary evil,” or a black hole of money/spending, or a department in the wild with no constraints and no accountability. Even in some companies where there is some level of accountability, there is the aversion of “too much accountability” because of a variety of reasons including job security, laziness, love of the status quo, etc.

However, for the life of me, I cannot understand why any instructional designer would not want to be ROI certified. I still do not understand it. Even when I didn’t know what ROI meant in its fullness, I still wanted to be trained in it. Here’s how I see it. Any training department, learning and development department, or organizational development department that’s worth their weight, should want the level of accountability that ROI measures bring.

ROI Proves the Department’s Impact & Worth

First, and foremost, it is the most valid way to prove one’s worth to the organization. It’s a concrete method of determining one’s impact to the business and to the bottom line. For example, when I didn’t really know how to do a proper ROI study, I did a ROI impact study on the implementation of GoToMeeting at my last company. It was determined that my training initiative saved the company $1,000,000. Now, I don’t know what that would have translated into as a ROI because I didn’t do it right, but that was the net amount the company saved on a conservative basis. However, now that I know ROI, I bet the ROI of a GoToMeeting implementation and a conversion from ILTs to VILTs was in the hundreds, maybe even thousands percentage points.

ROI Establishes Sustainability

Second, what business unit is sustainable, really, without accountability and measures? A training department and its training initiatives that are linked to the business needs and strategic imperatives is poised to become a focal point of the organization. Training departments who exist for the purpose of ensuring that strategic business goals, objectives and imperatives are met become the life blood of the organization. About a year ago, I was at a conference where I heard two CEOs say that if they could have only one other Chief Officer, they would take the Officer of the Learning and Development Department whether that was the CHRO or the CLO, and this is why.

ROI & Business Impact Measures Help Focus Learning Objectives

Many trainers and instructional designers are hogs of learning. They love to learn for learning sake. Furthermore, they love to create and redesign and redeliver learning (hence the reason they make a very poor trainee). We also speak learningese, the language of trainers and other learning and development professionals. There are glossaries and textbooks with glossaries of all the learning terms that exist. We have rules and governances over learning objectives. Then some organizations have both learning and performance objectives to satisfy all parties involved (which of course, there’s always someone upset about something). Regardless though, just like a high school student, if something is not going to be on the test, we don’t pay attention if it’s not measured. However, if we know a ROI or Business Impact study is going to be done, then we step up our game and ensure that our learning objectives are on par and ensure the best outcome possible.

A Culture of ROI Improves the Quality of the Training

Even in rapid development, ROI studies can show benefit to the quality of the training. An instructional designer, a developer, and anyone who knows that their outcomes are going to be measured both by the impact to the organization in performance as well as the bottom-line will kick in a little extra to ensure that the quality meets their standards before going to the organization.


Simply put ROI training, implementation, and a culture of ROI will yield far-fetching benefits to all parties involved: the person being trained (the end user of the training), the trainer, the training manager, the training department, and the organization as a whole.

It can:

  • Prove the Department’s Impact & Worth
  • Establish Sustainability
  • Help Focus & Improve Learning Objectives
  • Improve the Quality of the Training


  1. says

    Travis, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your experience – I think your perspective is a really valuable one to share in our community. I think it’s hard for L&D folks to figure out how to quantify learning (such an ephemeral thing) and so often learning gets quantified in terms of resources provided – i.e. “X manuals distributed” or “Y employees trained” rather than measuring the change in results for the organization. This is a tough challenge, and it’s great to see your suggestions at work.

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