No executive in their right mind would argue with the fact that employee training is a basic business necessity. When organizations experience growth, change or competitive pressure, gaps emerge between what employees know and what they need to know in order for the company to remain relevant in the marketplace.
Good training bridges those gaps and impacts bottom line measurements like productivity gains, cost reductions and customer satisfaction levels as well as improvements in employee safety, morale and team building.
But here’s the rub: According to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), U.S. businesses invest more than $125 billion per year in employee learning and development. That’s a lot of cash. Yet in today’s economic climate, employers and HR teams are being asked to do more with less – and for many executives, that means carefully calculating the costs, benefits and potential returns they will receive from learning technologies before they invest.
Now that smart phone sales outpace the sale of standard cellphones, the next wave of employee learning is sure to feature mobile technology, giving employers the ability to present anytime, anywhere training tools to their employees.
As an added bonus, mobile learning maximizes the return employers receive from training investments. But to nail down the ROI of mobile learning, employers need to pay closer attention to the connections between employee training and business outcomes.
Calculating returns on learning investments
Too often, ROI accounting focuses on efficiency rather than effectiveness. For learning investments, return isn’t just about counting dollars and cents – it’s about gauging the real outcomes learning technologies deliver to the organization.
Learning investments have no meaning unless they are connected to business goals and measured in terms of business metrics. Many employers evaluate training based on whether or not employees learned something new, retained the information or had, an enjoyable training experience instead of looking at how the training technology measurably impacted their business goals.
To increase the effectiveness of training and training technologies, businesses need to adjust their thinking and focus on the behavioral changes, business results and bottom line outcomes that were created by the training.
In the area of mobile learning, employers need to recognize the unique benefits mobile learning technology offers the organization and how mobile learning initiatives facilitate innovative, new approaches in employee training. This effect is noticeable due to the fact that the learning is delivered at the point of need, immediately helping the employee perform the task at hand.
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The measurable ROI benefits of mobile learning
There are a variety of ways in which mobile learning leads to ROI improvements and measurable results in organizations where employee training and business performance are inextricably linked.
- Improved savings. Traditional training routines tend to be a lot costlier than mobile learning initiatives. With mobile learning, companies can achieve better profitability and business performance by reducing the costs of instructors, employee travel and other required investments.
- Better time efficiency. All employees require a certain amount of training to perform their jobs effectively. In general, mobile learning significantly reduces training time requirements, which minimizes the productivity losses and opportunity costs that are normally associated with training.
- More learning opportunities. Traditional training models feature a scenario in which an instructor passes information on to students in a classroom context. After the training session ends, so does the employees’ access to the instructor’s expertise. In the mobile learning model, employees have access to training resources whenever and wherever they need them – creating ongoing value for the organization’s training content. This form of learning via repeated small touches has been shown by leading cognitive physiologists such as Dr. John Medina to be far more effective for creating long term retention.
- Increased revenue. In many companies, training initiatives can be attached to the sale of specific products or services. When mobile learning programs are connected to product sales, companies can easily calculate the increased revenue and ROI that are attributable to mobile learning investments.
- Other business benefits. Some of the other business benefits that can be tied to mobile learning investments include decreases in returned products, increased production, improved customer satisfaction and better response times.
It goes without saying that the value of any training expenditure hinges on whether or not the content is aligned with employees’ most pressing needs. But by taking the time to connect training investments to business outcomes, it’s easy to see how mobile learning delivers bigger bang for the bucks today’s employers spend on training technologies.