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Choosing the most cost-effective training method

Sometimes it’s good to know what others are doing.

If you are like me then focus on getting stuff done can costumes mean tunnel vision, heavy workload can often mean repeated patterns. So, for this brief article I figured it may be worth seeing what others are doing in the area of training spend.

In researching for this article, I came across a superb report by The Brandon Hall Group (see report here). It provides a fascinating overview of activity in the corporate training in the U.S. If we extrapolate a little, it also gives us some avenues to pursue when choosing the most cost effective training method and helps us to make the training budget work.

Firstly, the most striking findings for me were:

  1. Classroom training still has one of the highest effectiveness rating, outpaced only by personal coaching / mentoring. In other words, remote learning is becoming more popular, but may lag in the effectiveness stakes.
  2. Senior leaders get disproportionately more of the training budget. When the critical individuals in many delivery projects are the project managers, it makes me wonder where the spend should be?
  3. An e-learning module is the most expensive thing to create, a video the cheapest thing to make.

So, when we are working out the best for our training ROI, it is probably useful to consider the cost and impact of the methods we use. It’s curious that classroom is still the best vehicle for mass training, one would think that the new wave of social media meant that learning was transferring to technology. Apparently not. Delegates often talk about the spin off benefit of meeting together for a course, perhaps that has something to do with it.

Another unsurprising but curious point is the disproportionate amount of training spend on those with more senior positions. The logical argument I guess is that their decisions have more impact. On the other hand, 5S and LEAN approaches point us towards the key events that define corporate effectiveness, and many of those are the production and delivery cycle itself and customer contact points. Production and delivery decisions (for products or services) and customer contact points are of course usually the predominant domain of those in less senior positions.

 choosing the most cost effective training method

Mark Miller is MD of Goodfoot, and author of 'Hamsters Can't Dance", a tongue in cheek look at management challenges.

So, with video being so relatively cheap to produce, classroom being most effective, and senior roles being over represented in training spend, perhaps the time has come to think about mass training roll-outs to the bulk of the staff using video with classroom discussions? What puts senior people off the notion of ‘mass training’ is of course the cost, they want the best roi decision for training spend, but a traditional two-day course could perhaps be brought down to a day, halving the cost, if video were used more effectively? I remember learning a training lesson from an ‘old hand’, and the experience was both humbling and bit mind blowing. I was in my early 40s, having held a Senior Management positions in the chemical industry, and a consultant colleague and I were training a group of supervisors. I had all the intellectual power arising from my stunning intelligence, and several billion psychological models ready to explain to the delegates. My colleague? He was an ex-supervisor in his 60s. He put on a video of the England rugby coach briefing the England rugby team. Then he said “What do you think of that, and what would work for you guys at work?” and left them to it. Two hours later they had totally revamped the team briefing system to cascade corporate messages. Smart use of video and classroom in combination, time was used well, and I think what they achieved in two hours would have taken significantly longer had it been totally trainer-led, it seemed to be the video that got the buy-in.

Food for thought then on getting a good return on training impact for the money invested. Do let us know what your experiences are, and any thoughts you have on applying the best value for money approaches to training.

My colleague Annie Ives who was Global Head of Learning at The Times, has written an e-book on this topic of maximising ROI from training spend, which may be of interest. Download it free at the following link:


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