There’s a Hard Cost to Soft Skills – Show Your ROL (Return on Learning)!

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There’s a Hard Cost to Soft Skills – Show Your ROL (Return on Learning)!

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More than the traditional ROI that focuses on hard, often technical training, a Return on Learning (ROL) measures the broader cost of the problem by measuring soft skills training effectiveness. This cost may be people-based, and identifying its fiscal impact on the organization against the cost of creating and delivering the learning solution is a valuable way to demonstrate the impact learning has on the bottom line. From attrition to leadership communication, you can measure learning solutions that affect performance, and they have a measurable monetary impact. There are hard dollars in measuring “soft” skills!

Recommended training from HRDQ-U

Measuring Soft Skills to Show Your Return on Learning

ROL in Action

One of my clients in manufacturing was facing inconsistent output levels and quality issues with the work line. This client had invested a lot of time and resources into skills training and made many improvements to their hardware systems in an effort to improve the team’s issues, but the problems still persisted – the line wasn’t meeting the operational metrics. I was brought in to reevaluate and refine their training efforts.

One of the first things I did was meet the workers, and I noticed that during our introductory meeting, no one was open to answering my culture or process questions. Over the next few days, I reviewed their training materials and their work process on the line. I noticed a shift supervisor who was focused on meeting the metrics and increasing the line’s output. However, he often raised his voice at employees during the shift.

Every time the shift supervisor raised his voice, the line slowed down. I started tracking the slowed progress and made a plan to coach the shift supervisor and work with the team. When I presented my ideas, I was met with the response that soft skills can’t be measured. This is not the case. I was able to show the impact that was caused by this shift supervisor on team performance. Focusing on the ROL measures the cost of the problem, which may be people-based, and then measures its impact on the organization to demonstrate the importance of developing soft skills.

Watch this video for the full story and for a calculator that you can use to show the value of different operational metrics that demonstrate the impact learning and performance solutions bring to the organization and the bottom line.

Measuring Soft Skills Training Effectiveness

The first step to using learning strategically is to apply the same frame of reference your operational and leadership teams are using and apply them to the solution being implemented. The metrics that matter are the ones used by the client group, so use their data points to measure the impact learning has, especially around the behavioral skills we use in life to be successful. Some key business functions that are used as data points include first-call resolution, retention, leadership style, net promoter scores, upselling numbers, and more.

Look at how you are helping the person be able to perform better using the behavioral life skills that impact the organization. To truly measure the ROI, start by focusing on the ROL. Use my favorite four-letter word to start with – PLAN: Prior (to) Learning, Assess Now. Take ownership of the learning solution you are developing by first (prior to learning) gathering the current operational metrics (assess now) that you will be measuring against, so you can identify clearly to yourself and your client that the solution you put in place made a difference at the business level. Impacting performance on all levels creates value for the person and the process they are in, leading to success for everyone.

Headshot of William Ryan
William J. Ryan, Ph.D.

William J. Ryan, Ph.D. is the Principal Consultant with Ryan Consulting, LLC using learning as a strategic business tool to develop and impact people to improve retention, engagement, and performance.  Bill has a demonstrated record of corporate and industrial management experience leading performance support and instructional design teams globally including government (Dept. of Energy), high technology (IBM & Westinghouse), and health-related industries including home health care and insurance (Humana).  Recent clients include Delta Faucet with a comprehensive talent staffing and development plan, Blue Circle Leadership developing a blended online program in leadership development, developing an implementation strategy for a Hiring for Competency model used by the National Retail Services, a state initiative focused on workforce development helping businesses retain and develop employees. He is actively working with a clinical start-up focused on improved neonatal techniques for clinicians across the country and on a blended leadership and coaching program for a multi-state manufacturing concern. Bill holds an M.S. from Ithaca College focused on Instructional Design and a Ph.D. in Computing Technology in Education from Nova Southeastern University.

For more information, please visit his website at, contact him via email at, or at (502) 797-2479, and connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Recommended Training from HRDQ-U
Measuring Soft Skills to Show Your Return on Learning

Discover the value of return on learning, especially its impact on soft skills, and track the impact learning has on your organization.

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