What are you investing for?

What are you investing for?

Often when I work with a new or potential client, I hear this question: What is the return on the investment for this training? Asked another way: What savings we will realize if we pay you to come talk to us. While I totally understand these are fair questions, I think they are misguided questions, and regardless of which question is asked, my response is the same: It depends on why are you investing.

I know that may sound like I am trying to side step the question, but think about it. If you do not really know why you are doing something, then it is really hard to see or obtain the value.

Here is a silly thought exercise. Imagine you have a loved one who asked you to attend an event with him or her; maybe it is going to your child’s game or music recital. Maybe it is going on a date or movie with a partner or a spouse. Now, as that person asks you to attend the event, you respond by asking what is the investment in doing this? Sounds silly doesn’t it. The investment is time spent together, building a stronger relationship. Or, said another way, it is easier to put money in the bank when you know what you are putting it there for.

So it is with training. I counsel my clients to consider the reason for investing prior to making the investment. Maybe the organization really only wants some new perspectives on leadership, change management, or strategic planning. If that were the case, then the return on the training would be measured by what new perspectives were gained. Maybe the organization is concerned about a change initiative and wants some help to minimize the fears and anxieties that employees might experience about the change. If this is the case, a return on the investment could only be realized if the organization had some measure of anxiety before the training and then a second measurement afterward. Maybe it is something extremely technical like project management. The same process would apply. The organization should have a measure of the quality and capability of its staffs’ project management skills before the class, and then measure afterward to see if there has been a positive improvement.

The clients that I enjoy working with the most are those have thought a lot about what they are investing in, even if they don’t have a formal measurement. This way, I can structure a class, a training event, or a consulting engagement around their own investment strategies. For example, with clients interested in leadership development, sometimes I give out my leadership assessment survey prior to the start of the engagement. This gives me a baseline with regard to the participants’ leadership experiences and capabilities. This also helps me to design a program. After the program, I go back to the participants with a posttest to see if and where the participants have improved. I use a similar instrument for teamwork.

I think this same approach applies to individuals. Before committing to a class or training program, get clear on what you want out of it. Get creative. If you want new perspectives, design a way to measure how many new perspectives you gained. If you want to be inspired, create an inspiration meter. If you want new knowledge, create a self-test.

I believe that if you follow through on this exercise, not only will you come to the class more eager and alert, you will undoubtedly walk out with more knowledge, insights, and lessons.

For my American friends…Happy Thanksgiving!