Real Sustainable ROI

22-07-16 Blogger 2 comments

As L&D professionals, we hear the term ROI (Return on Investment) floating about by industry experts, within the workplace, practically everywhere…

But how do we measure this mysterious answer we are all searching for? How do we make ROI from learning a realistic and strategic objective? How do we ensure long term impact and sustainability are fully considered in our learning objectives and training conducted?

Organisations can no longer turn a blind eye to measuring learning impact in its various forms. The future for all learning and development centres on simple frameworks of measurement that ensure all learning interventions are tracked and measured to the appropriate level. The very function of learning and development should be as a value added profit generator.

Linac, have put together six levels of sustainable ROI, for us to track learning within our organisations.

Level 1: Reactions and Satisfaction

Level 2: Learning Application

Level 3: Behavioural Impact

Level 4: Organisational Performance Impact

Level 5: Financial Impact

Level 6: Long Term Impact

They suggest we all aim for Level 5 or Level 6 on this chart.


Diagnose, Design, Deliver

ROI evaluation threads itself through the entire learning cycle. Before design can commence it is critically important to decide what level to measure to and identify how you will measure to the desired level.

The application of an ROI priority matrix helps you to carefully consider your learning interventions and by applying standard criteria, decisions as to what level an intervention should be measured to become straightforward.

Working back from the desired learning outcomes, or a particular improvement opportunity or business performance gap, a simple ROI evaluation framework is applied.

The framework encompasses S.M.A.R.T objectives and a strategy for effective measurement at the desired evaluation levels. This ensures that the intervention in question can be evidenced easily and more importantly it can be proved that it has delivered against its goals.

Only when you have planned your ROI should you then consider actual learning design. The learning experience, the activities you chose, the exercises, and the learning blend all impact how you will deliver value to the business. Measurement continues through delivery and beyond to prove long term sustainable impact and value.


Ask yourself this:

  • Do you have a current ROI methodology in place?
  • Does all learning get screened for appropriate measurement?
  • Do you use ROI data at the various levels for effective business
  • reporting?
  • Is ROI a pivotal part of your learning and development strategy?
  • Can you evidence and prove the overall value learning and
  • development added?

We’d love to hear some of your answers to these questions in the comments section below, and for you to discuss how you measure ROI, for other L&D professionals to consider and even potentially utilise.


  • Malcolm Andrews

    thanks for this post. identifying the drivers for an L& D project is usually how i begin but i hadn’t considered quantifying these. do you measure the criteria referred to in terms of priority of the project? you also mention that the measurement of roi can go beyond actual delivery to measure ongoing impact. this sounds good but how practical is it? ebd of year kpl/ performance reviews? do you have any examples of this being applied? malcolm andrews

  • Brent Green, Ph.D.

    I like the adaptation from Kirpatrick’s levels here, especially L-6. One addition might be to remember that we practitioners can ask the learning participant, their boss, and peers for feedback on the levels! In my experience client’s want to have L-3 and beyond take place but don’t wish to pay additionally for it. Usually they settle for L-1 which is unfortunate.


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