The Tool Should Fit the Job

We are awash in tools and technology today. And some of us – me included – like the new technology tools – a lot.

But sometimes some of us in the Training/Learning Biz tend to lean too heavily on technology tools over other methods to create Learning via Training and Information delivery.

As always – it depends.

Sometimes the computer – mobile or otherwise – can be used to teach the basics, facts, models, theories – yeah I know, the boring stuff. Boring but necessary.

For example: This lever here will make your bulldozer go in reverse – not a good idea if the job site superintendent has parked their vehicle behind you.

But would learning how to control the Bulldozer be learned best on a computer – versus on a Bulldozer. Again, as always it depends.

That’s where ROI – a concept and method that has fallen out of favor for those who aren’t focused on terminal Performance – what Gilbert called worthy performance – and determine the ROI of one approach versus another – or many others.

Let’s say that to create the Bulldozer computer (eLearning and high-end Simulation) costs $100,000.

And to create a Structured OJT job aid – a laminated 2-sided PDF – for a certified coach to use on the job costs $10,000.

Then it becomes a math problem. How many Learners/Performers and how much is their time worth and the costs to find, certify and use those Certified Coaches?

You know – “all in” costs?

For comparison.

Because ROI – as created by DuPont – back in the day – the days of the 1920s – was intended to compare apples to apples for different business opportunities.

Or as I have in the past – I have used a variation on RONA – because that was most familiar to the client and their stakeholders (when in Rome….).

Cost of Nonconformance and ROI for Training Projects _ASTD – 1991 – 9 page PDF of the original (not the published version) article submitted and published in ASTD’s Technical & Skills Journal in their May-June 1991 issue under the title: Costing Out a Training Project (which it did not address). This presents an alternative approach for determining ROI that was unique to one of my client’s situation, and proxy for ROI: RONA – using the quality concepts of Cost of Non-Conformance and the Costs of Conformance in place of returns and Investments respectively.

Why Use ROI?

Not to exactly predict the total Returns against the total Investment costs. But to standardize for this predictive tool, on the cost of capital, the payback period, and other assumptions that would go into a comparison of opportunities to Invest. Unless of course your Enterprise can afford them all – in which case, nevermind.

And yes – executives of an Enterprise don’t need to forecast the ROI for every investment opportunity. They know better than to just waste their time on that nonsense.

If it’s – the Investment – is driven by Regulations – they won’t do an ROI – and they may not measure the results of Learning at Levels 1-2-3-4/5 either. To them – it’s as some say: a no-brainer.

The same thinking can be used to examine (compare) alternative approaches in terms of costs for the Investments and the Returns – in terms of their Rewards to be achieved and/or the Risks to be avoided – the R in my ROI is all about Rewards and/or Risks – the two sides of the same coin I think. What is the ROI (or RONA – Return of Net Assets) for:

  • All Computer Simulations
  • A blend of computer simulations and classroom and S-OJT
  • All S-OJTs
  • Totally Informal
Which makes Business Sense – something sometimes very different from some people’s Learning Sense (to go for the high tech solution).
As always – it depends.

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