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Warwick Conferences and the ROI Institute

Many happy returns: How Warwick Conferences and the ROI Institute helped learning and development directors get better bang for their buck

Research by Warwick Conferences revealed some surprising barriers to measuring the return on investment of L&D programmes – so it worked with the ROI Institute to tackle them.

Learning and development can play a vital role in any organisation.  

Improving employees’ skills and confidence helps them and their employers prosper. 

But while most businesses recognise its importance, measuring the effectiveness of learning and development (L&D) initiatives can be difficult – especially if every pound in your budget is being reviewed. 

No surprise, then, that directors are often keen to measure the return on investment (ROI) of L&D activities and ensure their programmes are delivering good value for money. 

L&D is a subject the team at Warwick Conferences know all about, not least because they regularly host training events across the many meeting spaces they manage on the University of Warwick’s campus. 

And after conducting an extensive survey in 2019, Warwick Conferences discovered intriguing new insights about both the attitudes of directors towards L&D and the challenges that come with calculating programmes’ ROI. 

The resulting report led to a partnership with the ROI Institute, a body that helps organisations in more than 70 countries to better evaluate the success of projects and schemes. 

Together, Warwick Conferences and the Institute soon built the L&D Barometer, an online calculator that estimates the potential return a programme may offer in advance and provides advice on how to improve it. 

It’s the first tool of its kind in the world – and it’s now supporting HR and L&D professionals to deliver the best courses possible. 


Understanding the big picture

When Warwick Conferences surveyed 100 finance directors, 50 HR directors and 50 L&D directors, there were some unexpected results. 

One in five said they ran the same L&D programme year on year regardless of the feedback they received about it.  

Almost a third claimed that complexity was the main barrier to measuring the ROI of their L&D programmes. 

And most concerningly of all, 44% of L&D directors expressed concern that calculating ROI could reveal that programmes are unsuccessful, forcing a change of structure.  

“As you can imagine, we were quite surprised with some of these statistics,” said Catherine Greenhill, then Client Relationship Manager at Warwick Conferences, in 2021.  

“From speaking to many people within the industry, it’s clear that there is more scrutiny than ever before on proving the impact of a programme.  

“Yet, our initial survey results showed clear limitations – and even reluctance to some extent – to understanding ROI.” 

The findings were taken to the ROI Institute with a view to solving the problems together. 

Jack Phillips, Ph.D., chairman of ROI Institute, said:  

“When Warwick Conferences came to us to develop this unique tool, we were instantly excited about the prospect of creating a one-of-a-kind estimator for L&D professionals,” said Dr Jack Phillips, Chairman at ROI Institute. 

“We know from our research that CEOs and business leaders want to see more proof that training has a positive impact, but determining this can often be overcomplicated.  


Building something practical

To develop the unique tool, the ROI Institute analysed 2,000 pieces of research before identifying eight factors that significantly impact the overall ROI of a programme, including the facilities where it is taking place, the level of influence of those in attendance, and the extent to which participants understand the value of attending. 

The online tool asks a simple question about each of the eight factors to determine its likelihood of success – and suggest ways to improve a planned event during the planning stage. 

Crucially, users get to understand the potential impact of their programme through both a monetary figure and a percentage; data that can be helpful when reviewing proposals with colleagues.  

“Responses from the community have been fantastic,” Justine Meek, Agency Relationships Manager at Warwick Conferences, said. 

“Those working on upcoming programmes can plan with better foresight, ensuring that what they intend to run will have the maximum impact on the business.  

“With more people looking for ways in which to measure the success of an event or meeting, the L&D Barometer is one of the first tools to offer an educated assessment.” 

In the wake of Covid and with other financial pressures looming large, the ROI Institute sees the tool as being particularly relevant. 

“We’re in a period where budgets are under increased scrutiny,” Jack Phillips explained. 

“The tool is perfectly timed to support businesses – and to enable them to maximise the impact of their L&D.”


Interested in collaborating with Warwick Conferences?