Gartner looked at the top 5 priorities for HR leaders in 2020, and found that these priorities were aligned around three critical business outcomes:
- Grow the Business
- Improve Operational Excellence
- Execute Business Transformation
These three business goals are especially important given the situation many companies find themselves in because of COVID-19 and a hard economy.
According to PWC, many CFOs are actively looking for ways to rebuild revenue given the prognosis that the economic recession isn’t going away any time soon.
At least a third of CFO’s are looking to tech-driven products and services to aid in the exact three goals Gartner found L&D is, or should be, focused on:
- Growth (Grow the Business)
- Cost Reduction (Improve Operational Excellence)
- Collaboration (Execute Business Transformation)
It’s very interesting that the top three goals noted above from CFO’s maps perfectly to the business goals L&D should be supporting.
However, it lands on the shoulders of L&D leaders to prove that they can deliver on these goals for the business. Given the economic impacts we’re facing, many L&D leaders are facing
- Shrinking budgets
- Demand for more quantifiable and faster returns on investment
- The need to justify their existence by proving ROI and positive business impact in hard numbers
One of the best ways to face these challenges and prove up in ROI is by focusing, in a unique way which we’ll get into later, on building hard skills your organization needs to survive, which Gartner states as the #1 priority of HR leaders in the same report:
And only 1 in five employees say they actually have the skills they need for their current roles and future careers.
L&D can help businesses correct this, while proving ROI in the process. L&D leaders that are proactive and become drivers of business results will be the winners.
Who is This For?
If you are afraid of losing your job because you aren’t able to show quantifiable results to your managers, then this is for you.
If you would like to get more respect from other business leaders and prove the value of L&D in your company, then you’re in the right place.
If you aren’t able to get the budget you want for training programs, we’ll show you how to change that.
You can get more budget, and prove ROI quickly, by training teams in the skills they need to find opportunities for growth and cost savings across business units.
However, L&D leaders are overlooking one of their biggest opportunities to prove ROI because they don’t understand how to leverage the training-consulting model in analytics training. Most corporate training is still locked in the traditional classroom model.
We’ve lived in both the training and the consulting world within data science, and we’ve seen the huge benefits of combining them for L&D customers. We are the only company focused on helping L&D prove their ROI using a refined training-consulting approach for analytics training that fits in the L&D paradigm.
These two concepts are what makes this approach so successful:
Highest Value Training Model: Training-consulting
- Team gains new critical skills
- Business gets a valuable deliverable
Highest Value Area of Training: Analytics/Data Science
- Every line of business has data and opportunity for gains
- High cost savings in reporting and analysis time
- High costs savings in identification of previously unknown opportunities and cost centers
One of our clients, Genesis Healthcare, saw
- A reduction in reporting time by half
- A significant cost savings found
- Insights they would have never had
Below are some examples of insights that can be worth several multiples the cost of actual training, directly tied to the bottom line.
Growth Insight: Price adjustment to increase profitability by 5%.
Growth Insight: Adjusting marketing mix to deliver more value from each marketing dollars.
Growth Insight: What to stock and when to improve bottom-line revenue.
Cost Reduction Insight: Removing unprofitable products to reduce costs – increasing margin by 15%.
Cost Reduction Insight: Identification of clinics paying more than they should for supplies.
Ryan Nokes and Curtis Seare are the co-founders of Data Crunch. They’ve been deep in the data science and training space for over a decade.
- Consulted at dozens of fortune 1000 and similar companies:
- AAA, Deloitte, Verizon, Delta, Time Warner, USAA, BlueCross and BlueShield, Watts, The City of Columbus, EMD Serono, etc.
- Wrote several books and curriculum manuals for data visualization, data storytelling, Tableau, and more
- Very early adopter of Tableau and web analytics
- Hosts one of the longest-running and highest respected data science podcasts in the industry (over 5k subscribers), and regularly has in-depth discussions with leaders in the data science field to bring out useful insights
- Received his Masters in predictive analytics from Northwestern
- Author of Simple Predictive Analytics: Solving Business Problems
- Worked at several companies in lead analytical roles in industries from training, to nonprofit, to software, to retail before co-founding Data Crunch
- A very early adopter of Tableau and web analytics
Data Crunch has been using the methods described in this article for years and Fortune 500 companies. They work.
How to Achieve ROI and Get More Budget: The Four Steps
(1) Identification of Specific and Solvable Business Needs
In order to solve for a specific business problem and come out with quantifiable, measurable results, you have to identify the problem first. There are three things you should be solving for when looking to specific business problems to help solve:
- Magnitude of the problem
- If it’s not painful, or there’s not a big payoff associated with solving, it, people will be either apathetic, or at best, not enthusiastic, about the training that solves is
- How fast ROI can be achieved by solving this problem
- The faster the better. You’ll want to ideally shoot for under 90 days, but if you can get it done in a week, that’s the best case scenario. And yes, this is possible.
- There should be direct, quantifiable metrics that can be improved by solving this problem. Some common ones to look for are:
- Profit (this is the golden metric—if you can, optimize this one.)
- Customer retention
- Churn rate
- If there is not a direct connection between a metric and the specific business need, you need to find a way to back into a metric that matters.
- For example, if you are doing a training that teaches employee interpersonal skills, you’ll need to find some credible sources and studies that show how better interpersonal skills are connected to metrics like productivity, collaboration, employee job satisfaction, etc. You may need to make several more steps until you get to a metric that defines your training effort in quantifiable business terms a business line will care about. For example, you may have to make the following connection using credible sources and studies: interpersonal skill improves employee satisfaction by x%, and employee satisfaction is shown to increase productivity by y%, and productivity is shown to increase sales by z%
- This is less powerful than a direct association, but the if you have a strong argument, a tight timeframe, and a connection to a metric that ties to the bottom line, it can work
Some skills and training are easier to prove ROI and faster to results than others. These include:
- Data science
- Data engineering
- Software development
- Cloud development
- Direct response marketing
Some other skills are still necessary for an organization to grow, but are harder to tie to ROI and faster results. You should try to tie these skills as much as possible to ROI and fast results, but usually the arguments are weaker and results slower, so in your program you’ll want to balance solving business problems that offer bullet-proof ROI with those that are murkier. Starting with the skills with fast ROI can actually open doors to having more budget for some of these other skill programs:
- Interpersonal skills
- Conflict resolution
Training that offers quick measurable, and significant quantifiable results should be prioritized. We’ve found some of the best training to get that outcome quickly is data analytics training. Analytics and visualization training has the following beneficial advantages when it comes to proving ROI.
- Data is, by nature, quantifiable
- Every department in the business uses data to attain goals, so there are opportunities for improvement of how that data is used across the business, including
- Executive suite
- In almost every company, there are multiple, large opportunities for improvement in how data is handled, visualized, processed, and used to achieve business goals, and you can see huge gains in the form of
- Reducing reporting time by an order of magnitude (significantly reduce cost)
- Previously unknown, million dollar insights in the form of cost savings or growth opportunities
- Reduction in meeting time, rechecking the data, and decisions based on bad data that could be costing the company a substantial amount of money
- New products the company can build with data to gain new customers and new revenue streams
- New features to current products that reduces customer churn and increases sales
Using data and analytics to not only identify key business problems, but also in the training to solve those problems and drive those metrics, leads to positive, quantifiable ROI that can be demonstrated.
The Identifying Business Needs – Decisions and Data Matrix can be used to map out all of the following, and identify exactly what you need to hold a measurable, positive ROI training:
- Decision Matrix:
- Specific Objectives
- Frequency of Access
- Method of Access
- Data Matrix:
- Data Source
- Key Metrics
- Key Segments
- Comparison and Context
FAQ: Is the data and analytics training described above the same thing as “data literacy” training.
No, at least not in the same sense that most people think of when they think of data literacy. Typically the terms involve the broad, generic education of many people about the basics of reading data, understanding graphs, understanding bias in analysis, etc. This is good training but doesn’t pass the specificity test needed when you want to show measurable ROI.
Data and analytics training should be laser-focused. It requires you to define what business metric you want to increase, define who the stakeholders are that need to take action, define the audience that will be learning the new data or analytics skills, and define the road map from analysis to action to result. It is specific and targeted, not generic.
Breakdown of the new approach vs the traditional approach
Identify general skills gaps or general training needs and trends
Use analytics to identify quantifiable business needs first (sales, revenues, profits, costs, efficiencies, customer retention, churn rate), and focus on training that will directly and quickly improve those metrics.
Analytics training is the best option here, for any department, across the company.
A lot of people are talking about this concept vaguely as “data literacy”, but when analytics training is targeted at improving specific metrics, the company becomes data literate in a way that matters to the bottom line. It ceases to be abstract and becomes focused and easy to understand.
Training that is interesting to business leaders, but murky in actual quantifiable improvements, especially on shorter timeframes.
Training that quickly improves important business metrics in a quantifiable way
Training that offers quick measurable, and significant quantifiable results should be prioritized, and the best training to get that outcome is data analytics training.
(2) Becoming a strategic ally
Once you’ve been able to assess the needs of the business and you now the metrics business leaders care about, you can become a strategic ally to the business by proactively suggesting courses that will have an impact on those metrics.
When pitching new courses aligned with needs, there are a few things to keep in mind the a business leader will care about
- Show alignment between the course and the metrics the business line wants to optimize
- Describe a timeframe to get results
- How long will it take for the business line to realize the benefits of the course? The sooner, the better
- Describe what they expect to get from the course in measurable terms
- Results usually come in two formats
- Cost savings
- Reducing the number of hours it takes to do certain tasks
- Reducing negative metrics like employee churn, customer churn, etc.
- Identification of previously unknown drains on the business
- Growth opportunities
- Opening up new capabilities and revenue streams
- Identifying new sales opportunities
- Identifying previously unknown areas where money is being left on the table for the business
- Cost savings
- Results usually come in two formats
- Collect case studies as you do these courses to present with your arguments
- The more you proactively bring courses to the business, and those courses are successful in moving metrics forward, the more you will be trusted to help the business succeed. Keep track and document these successes.
- You should build a portfolio of courses you have brought to the company and the results that have been seen from those courses
Here is an example of a cost savings calculator you can use to determine the number of hours that could be saved from a particular analytics/technical training.
You can always find a way to be proactive in your company. Don’t feel like there are any barriers or swim lanes. In business, the people that provide the most value are the ones that keep their jobs and get promotions. Being proactive is the only way to do that. You can use the ROI Calculator to help determine the value of a training program.
Breakdown of the new approach vs the traditional approach
Take orders from business leaders on what they need
Be proactive and suggesting training that gives a quantifiable, measurable results
Your job is at the mercy of what others tell you and the budget that they can allocate.
L&D isn’t viewed as a strategic ally to achieving business-critical financial priorities.
You prove your own value, you keep your job, you’re able to expand the role of L&D within the company as that is now crucial to achieving financial objectives for the company.
Become a go-to ally in training people on the skills they need to measurably impact critical business priorities.
(3) Class Format That Drives Towards a Consulting Deliverable
With all of the preparation work done, now we need to make sure that the course being delivered is set up to actually deliver some kind of consulting level deliverable. This has a few distinct advantages over running a traditional training with an instructor going over some generic or lightly tailored curriculum
- Students learn better, because they are actually building something of value for the business as they are learning new skills. Theoretically, this is what they should be doing with their new skills anyway.
- Because there is such tight alignment with their jobs and their training, you get better engagement and better retention
- The business comes away instantly with something valuable. There is not lag time to wait for students to put into practice what they learned.
- Students have an already done project to jump off. They can then do successive projects that are valuable for the business because they’ve already been guided through one by highly trained professionals
Many training companies say that they ‘customize’ their training. Oftentimes, this is some simple changes to exercises, wording, or examples. While this is much better than canned curriculum, it’s nowhere near the level of customization you need to get a targeted, consulting level deliverable from a training. Make sure when you are talking to training companies that they can provide a highly customized training, and ask what students will be able to produce by the end of the course, and what value that product will have to the business. You will likely get pushback here saying that it can’t be done, but that’s not true. There is always a way to customize a training to the point of producing something valuable for the business. Even if you push for that, however, many vendors may not provide this additional level of customization that is critical to the business.
When choosing vendors, you’ll want to ask the following questions
- How do they quantify class results in terms of the metrics the business cares about?
- How do they prove ROI?
- What is the turnaround time to see ROI?
- What is the risk of not getting to ROI?
To ensure that the end product of a training is on target, and you will get lasting value from a training, you’ll want to look for the following things.
- An end product that is aligned with the strategic metrics you identified in step one
- An end product that moves those strategic metrics in a positive direction
- An end product that provides demonstrable value quickly
- A training scenario that works students through all of the steps to create that end product, giving them not only the technical skills they need, but also the thought process and business acumen to develop something that matters to the business.
- A follow up plan after the training to ensure the end product has been implemented and value has been achieved for the business
- A follow up plan after the training to ensure retention of information
Running a training like a consulting engagement delivers value for the students, and for the business. One of the best types of training you can do in this context is analytics and data visualization training. This kind of training lends itself to complete relevance and customization, because products and deliverables can be built with company data that employees are already trying to work with. The consulting and training engagement then serves to not only show employees how to work with their own data, but how to produce relevant products from that data that move business metrics forward. The business then starts to have highly trained, truly data-driven employees and a data-driven culture.
You can use the consulting deliverable checklist when assessing analytics courses. You would have similar questions for other types of courses as well.
Breakdown of the new approach vs the traditional approach:
Bring a trainer in for a few days, put everyone in a classroom, then everyone returns to their normal routine;
No plan is in place to ensure skills are understood, applied and making an impact on the company
Develop a plan to ensure skills are understood by tailoring the training using company data and situations that are extremely targeted to the class.
Plan for a consulting deliverable to be produced by the end of the class that has value to the business.
Create follow-up and measurement mechanisms to understand adoption and improvements post-training.
Training may or not drive quantifiable results, but people enjoyed the class.
- Because the course is extremely tailored, people walk out with something they can use immediately in their jobs. There’s no downtime due to being in class. (Consulting wrapped into training)
- Students learn highly relevant, contextualized skills for the business, meaning higher knowledge retention.
Running a training like a consulting engagement delivers higher contextualization and a valuable business deliverable
(4) Reporting on the Outcome
Typically, the success of a course is measured based on course evaluations, student engagement, and student feedback. These are decent metrics to know if a course was delivered well, and you certainly don’t want to be delivering courses that get low scores in this arena.
But by themselves, they are insufficient to be truly meaningful for the business. You need to be able to show measurable ROI in terms the business cares about.
If you’ve done the initial identification of the business need and metrics assessment right, and found or designed a course as outlined above, adding this extra element to the reporting on the class becomes very easy.
You already know the metrics you were driving to increase, and you already have a consulting product that can demonstrate value. All that is left is to write up a report or presentation that delivers that information concisely and clearly, framed in terms a business leader will intuitively understand. You should try and show improvement in as many key business metrics as the training can move.
Here again, analytics courses shine in that the consulting level output is visually appealing, and shows gains from the companies data directly. In addition, you can layer in the time savings that were gained by upskilling the team, as well as the cost of paying a consultant to do the work that was done in the process of training. These can all add up to massive savings.
You can view an example analytics consulting deliverable that reports on business outcomes below.
Breakdown of the new approach vs the traditional approach:
Course evaluation scores (engagement and student feedback)
In addition to course evals, L&D measures results post class that tie in to the metrics mentioned above, in a quantifiable way.
You have results that can only be loosely tied to the business and that are hard to justify when asking for more budget, especially during lean economic times.
You show exact ROI, results are tied to business objectives (improving revenue, reducing costs, increasing profits, etc.). Business leaders care; they ask you for more of the same types of engagement. You are a hero.
Results reporting should be framed in terms of business metrics so business leaders see the value, instantly.
With this information, you could implement these steps and prove ROI and get more budget. This would require to you:
Identify business needs and priorities
- Map out all of the departments in your company with their biggest pain points, and the metrics associated with those pain points, and the training that would support growing those metrics.
Become a strategic ally
- Come up with proposals to each department head for sourcing and purchasing this training, and convince them that getting training on a particular skill will improve their key metrics.
Customize the training
- Find vendors that are willing to work with your team and not only consult but also train, and build a fully customized course based on your data and situations, without incurring huge costs and timeframes.
- The team walking out of the class should have a consultant-level deliverable that they can take action on right away, as well as understand how to recreate that on their own.
- Beware of many training organizations that say they ‘customize’ their content; this usually only equates to changing a few modules or emphasizing one aspect of a course over another, NOT building a custom course from scratch that delivers a consultant-level product.
Report on outcomes and ROI
- Ensure that the consulting deliverable has valid and compelling arguments for ROI justification, and ensure you can measure time savings and other gains your team achieves based on the training, and put this together in a concise report for leadership teams.
This is a ton of work. It will produce results. But, it’s difficult.
The other option is to have us do this entire process for you, and within 30 days you come away with a positive ROI case study, a trained team, and the prospects of more budget for more training. We’ve developed the consulting-training model that encompasses all of the above steps, and we can implement that for you immediately.
Working With Data Crunch
We’ll help you get all of the above done easily. When you sign up for any of our courses, we work with you do determine all of the following:
- Identification of meaningful business need: Strategic business objectives and metrics to optimize for
- Data analytics classes are high impact and quick to value, but most people don’t know what to look for or how to apply data in a way that optimizes key metrics, like growth, cost savings, or automation and efficiencies.
- We have data coursework that can be applied to any business department and show a positive ROI. We know what to look for in each department, we know how to tailor the coursework, and we know how to make the ROI justifications.
- How to pitch the course to become a strategic ally
- We have pre-written proposal templates that we can fill in with your specific needs, based on our discovery meeting in the last step.
- 100% customized training and a meaningful consulting deliverable
- Our courses are already designed to be run with a consulting deliverable in mind, and are 100% customizable to your data and your needs. Once we know the needs from the above exercises, we’re ready to deliver a completely custom training that produces a consultant-level deliverable.
- Reporting on the outcomes and follow up on training
- Since ROI is the driving force for everything in the training process, this report basically writes itself. We have pre-written report templates we can use to quickly deliver a report to you that demonstrates the ROI and value of the training course
Courses that we offer:
- Tableau beginner, intermediate, and advanced
- Tableau data preparation
- PowerBI beginner, comprehensive, advanced
- Predictive modeling and business statistics
- Data Storytelling
See all courses.
We’ll get you to ROI in under 30 days with our training programs.