Return on investment: Project evaluation skills for measuring success

2020 started with some surprises. The first was the lack of a summer lull: we found ourselves taking calls from an unusually large number of people at the start of the year, all of whom wanted our help finding new roles in L&D.

The second surprise was the publication of Donald H. Taylor’s sentiment survey. His results show that learning analytics is predicted to be the ‘hot topic’ in the L&D world in 2020 – a move away from AI and the expectations we had of virtual worlds this time last year.

Many of the callers we spoke to asked about the technical skills and experience that employers want, and this got me thinking. Technology is helping us dive deeper into data than we could before, but data itself isn’t new. In fact, it has been giving us insights for years.

Like data? You’ll like ROI

The ability to measure data is wonderful, not just because it can give us insights into our learners, but because it can also show us the impact of our projects and programmes. I’ve spent many years doing this through my work measuring return on investment (ROI).

However, it seems that this kind of insight is missing from people’s skill sets and their career plans. That’s a shame, because having project evaluation skills is valuable both for the organisations we work for, the people we serve, and ourselves.

That’s one of the reasons I decided to set up a series of ROI workshops this year. I wanted to help people discover this skill for themselves and to see the value it can bring.

ROI: simple and effective project evaluation skills

ROI is a simple methodology that works hard. It allows you to track and evaluate how effective an initiative is, and it reveals where you could make changes to improve its efficiency. The level of insight also means you can report on progress clearly and objectively – two things that leaders like.

When you can show leaders or clients that an initiative has been a success or that you’ve been able to drive it towards a more successful outcome, they’ll recognise that you can see the bigger picture and that you’re commercially aware.

That makes ROI experience a powerful means to progressing in your career. You can step away from taking orders and move towards strategic thinking, planning and leading.

My colleague Wayne Burroughs agrees: “The ROI methodology has enabled me to apply the design thinking approach to a large number of significant projects that I’ve been involved in,” he says. “It’s made me more aware of the costs of projects and thinking about the value of a successful delivery in monetary terms.”

A career builder

There are other reasons to think about building experience in ROI. For one thing, it could help you move into a new industry, and it will future proof you in a world that’s constantly changing.

“We live in a world where almost every sector in society is increasingly being asked to be more accountable, and to be able to demonstrate return on investment,” Wayne points out.

“It’s an increasingly sought-after capability, as it shows how monetary value can be calculated on projects. This is especially important for the soft skill areas of people development such as leadership and diversity,” he adds.

ROI work is also rewarding. I’ve been able to help people continue with worthwhile programmes and improve others that weren’t working so well. It is hugely satisfying to be able to state your contribution to your organisation or your clients. ROI gives you an opportunity to celebrate success!

How to get started

Our ROI skills workshops start on 18 February and, as you can see below, include events for project managers, health and safety and healthcare industry specialists as well as L&D and OD practitioners.

Measuring the ROI in leadership development:  18 February

The bottom line on return on investment:  19 February, 26 February, 11 March, 18 March, 15 April

Measuring ROI in health and safety:  25 February

Measuring ROI in healthcare:  10 March

Project management ROI:  17 March

Measuring the value of anti-bullying and anti-harassment campaigns14 April