ROI justifications from the Scope sessions

June 6, 2006

How do you justify ROI for informal learning?

I get sneaky. wink, or some may call it guerilla marketing.

Get permission to "prototype" your efforts with different parts of the organization. They will love it and drive your point upward and outward. This is my all time, guaranteed way to success IF you truly do listen and respond to the learners. I rarely find that top down agreement is necessary. Sometimes it may take a bit of misdirection so that mgmt thinks your giving them what they told you the employees need while you're really listening to the learners and responding to what they tell you the need and how they need it.

It's an easy ROI to do online testing and then as long as the testing is online it's an easy case to make that the materials should be put online in PDF/static HTML and from there to put in bits and pieces until you have a dynamic environment (seems to take about a year). Your initial presentation may be that's it's "JUST" pre/post materials so you can slide into it w/o causing undue alarm, but soon the clamor will be heard for all materials to be available. Use free log reports to prove times and amount of access to support your case to start building/buying a platform. Post short "feedback" (never call them assessments or evaluations) forms next to the materials. Collect, collate and present the results.

Partner up with marketing and/or sales to "trade" resources. Then show how that "trading" is, in essence, a basic eLearning or KM platform. Also concentrate on how you can get invited to be involved with "training" customers to buy your org's service/products or customer support. The closer you move towards an org's customers the more political power and budget bucks you get.

Use business buzzwords like scorecard, improving quality, reducing cycle time. Get your elevator speech ready and if the VIPS smoke, then hang out in the smoking area.

I even made up an ROI calculation, I have a background in sales and accounting, number that I called learner breakeven. It compared current costs and length of time it took for a new hire in one dept to become effective vs learning from a community of experts We broke even day one. We just put the materials online and put a static navigation around it and we won the learner's hearts/minds, then their managers and then other departments ("I didn't know our product did that"), then they were forwarding links to customers all over the world (with names like Volvo and other massive Int'l brands) who forwarded them to their customers and then … dot bust.

Get experts involved easily by taking the time to sit down with them, find out what questions they get all the time and are tired of answering, promise them that if they work with you know they'll never get those questions again, then put together an easy to update/navigate structure and you'll now have the experts making your presentations to the VIPS. Experts may not have much formal power but when they're on your side you'll find how they have tremendous informal power.

Whatever you do, stay away from HR and, if possible, the training department.

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