The low ROI of Learning & Development programs

The low ROI of Learning & Development programs

25 January 2021
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • Why most L&D programs have a low ROI

  • Some observations we do when talking to L&D managers in both small and large companies:

    1. L&D is still a one-size-fits-all approach in lots of companies. However, employees are not standardized when it comes to L&D needs. This creates situations where people follow training because they have to; it’s part of the standard program. This is a waste of time and money for sure and a missed opportunity for real growth.
    2. Moreover, we still see many companies where L&D is still focused on the weaknesses of people (to make them less weak).
  • Two advices from our Ambits Business Mentors

    1. Before talking about L&D: make sure you know the strengths and talents of your employees. Make people stronger in areas for which they have the talent to become excellent. Talent x effort = great performance; weaknesses x effort = smaller weakness but still a weakness.
    2. Go for an à la carte approach: customize the L&D program based on the specific needs. This will motivate employees much more to engage in L&D, and you will see more impact. More impact = higher ROI.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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