The ROI of learning interventions (L&D investments) is quite difficult to quantify in a way that experienced CFOs will respect/understand and appreciate.
Since ROI is a financial calculation derived from an initial investment and the quantifiable results (returns of the investment) it generates, it is quite difficult to apply to L&D investments.
The initial investment is usually not hard to quantify. However the returns that it produces are. There are multiple reasons for this: When do returns begin and end? (ROI requires a start and end to returns); What returns can be attributed to the L&D intervention versus other factors (higher commissions, new team leader, better marketing, better signs, better coffee, etc.); What intangible returns should be factored in, if any at all (e.g. better employee satisfaction) and how do you quantify them…
The solution to this problem, in my opinion, lies with the individual employee.
The fact is that when we make an L&D investment we make it in the individual. It is really up to the individual to learn, make use of the ‘investment’ and therefore generate a return for the ‘investment’ made in him or her.
Therefore, I am not suggesting we ignore ROI but rather consider it if it comes from the individual. When individuals can attest that the actions they took which generated X results came from what they learned, you can then make a direct link between the L&D investment and the return you got.
If you are interested in this approach you can view this brief YouTube video and email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a research thesis that covers these arguments in depth. I would also suggest you look into Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method.