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ROI on a shoe‐string: strategies for resource‐constrained environments: Measuring more with less (part I)

Holly Burkett (Certified ROI professional, ROI Field Editor for ASTD ROI Network global publications, and Principal of Evaluation Works, a California‐based consulting practice focused on helping organizations define the business impact of their learning and performance improvement solutions.E‐mail:

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 1 January 2005



Despite heightened interest in return on investment (ROI) and increased accountability for training professionals to prove their bottom‐line organizational value, many practitioners are deterred from comprehensive measurement and ROI evaluation due to concerns about the cost, time, and human resources necessary to fully implement the process. The purpose of this two‐part series is to present ten best practice, cost‐saving approaches for developing a credible, economical ROI strategy.


A systemic approach to measuring training's impact begins with an evaluation framework. For the purposes of this article, Jack Phillips’ five‐level framework for capturing the financial impact of training programs was referenced. Based on over 20 years of research and global applications, Phillips’ ROI model also includes techniques for isolating the impact of other variables, besides training, on performance improvement.


Many organizations around the globe are using cost‐saving approaches so they can begin conducting ROI evaluation within their current budget, while others use cost‐saving approaches in order to increase the number of ROI studies they conduct. The ten cost‐saving approaches for measuring programs at the ROI level have been proven to significantly decrease resource requirements while still providing sound, credible data. Despite these factors, establishing an evaluation culture is no easy task. In many ways, implementing a system‐wide ROI effort is similar to implementing a large‐scale change initiative.

Practical implications

Practical application of these cost‐saving approaches allows the resource‐constrained training function to present their work in terms of financial benefits that leaders understand and have come to expect. It is a vital step in establishing business partnerships that will enhance commitment for training programs, products, and services going forward.


By evaluating training programs with the ROI in mind, training functions can be perceived in a more credible light. Programs aligned with organization strategy are offered, while others that add little value are redesigned and sometimes eliminated. Trainers, designers and developers can use the findings of an ROI evaluation to increase training alignment with business needs and to improve the efficiency of the training design, development, and delivery life cycle.



Burkett, H. (2005), "ROI on a shoe‐string: strategies for resource‐constrained environments: Measuring more with less (part I)", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 10-17.



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