Training - How to Make it Pay

by Stephen Newton

Justifying training

The full costs of any training must be understood and justified in the context of specific benefits, both to the firm and to the individual. Those benefits must be thought through before the event (see Before you begin).

The benefit may be financial (for example, a cost saving from reduced error rates), but it may also be defined in other ways, such as enabling the trainee to take on a team leader role or to cover an additional function, thus adding to staffing flexibility for the team as a whole.

Making training (or any other development activity) pay for itself is driven by three factors:

  1. The work done before the event to identify the actual needs
  2. Identifying before the event both the specific benefits expected and how success will be measured
  3. Ensuring that the training is reviewed and that the trainee has ample opportunity to practise newly-acquired skills after the training event.

These, in turn, drive the choice of activity, selection of suppliers and gaining of buy-in from staff.

A problem-centred approach

All of this points towards the use of a problem-centred approach to identifying training needs. In other words, it is necessary to identify specific problems which cause a measurable cost to the company (for example, error rates, wasted materials or wasted time) and which can be resolved or reduced through the use of training (or another development option).

The training must be capable of immediate application in the workplace, with any necessary learning being achieved as part of the training process, although further efficiency gains may of course be made through ongoing practice.

The cost of failing to train

What if I train my people and they all leave?

What if you don’t train them and they all stay...?


There is a potential cost in failing to train. For example, a particular course may be a regulatory requirement – say, related to Health & Safety law, such as a need to have one person out of a group of staff qualified in First Aid. Failure to have the necessary qualifications and up-to-date certification in place can lead to fines or other penalties, especially if someone is injured, directly or indirectly, as a result.

Some senior managers will question the value of training in the light of staff turnover. If you lose 30 to 40 per cent of your people in any given year, which is not uncommon in call-centres, for example, then that percentage of your training budget will arguably be wasted. However, research indicates that being seen to invest in training and development is a key factor in being able to retain staff. It may, in some cases, reduce turnover by up to 50 per cent, as part of an overall package of perceived investment in staff.