"Tracey’s Takeaways" is a new feature focusing on employee development, management issues, leadership and organizational culture.

Ben Franklin is credited with having said, "The only thing that is more expensive than education is ignorance." No doubt about it, educating employees (and board members) costs money, time and effort. Quantifying a return on that investment or ROI can be like trying to prove a negative, namely that ignorance or lesser skill would have cost your co-op more. So how do you know that the education your co-op is investing in is worth it? In this article, I'll suggest a couple of value metrics for you to consider AND provide three things that you can do to help ensure that the learning "sticks" and that your co-op truly benefits.

Value or ROI can be more subjective and tougher to quantify than things like registration fees and travel costs, but it's not impossible. As part of NRECA's Value of Learning initiative, we seek to quantify actual application of what is learned at an NRECA education program back on the job. After all, isn't that why you send people to training and education, so they can do their job better? We conducted immediate post-event and six month follow-up evaluations for a number of NRECA's programs and found that:

  • 88% of participants in an NRECA program said they had applied what they learned on the job

  • 86% intended to take action or have discussions based on information gained or peer connections made

  • 78% shared something they learned with others

These are fantastic numbers … but they fall short of 100%. Does that mean our education programs failed some participants? Maybe so, but maybe those participants did not receive some of the encouragement and support that has been proven to help drive greater learner engagement and accountability, and ultimately learning application. You guessed it; here is where you come in:

  1. Before sending an employee to an education program, have a discussion about your expectations. If there is a particular knowledge area or skill you want them to develop by participating, make that clear.

  2. While at the education program, encourage them to record any "Aha" moments and get contact information for peers or experts they met that could help them in the future.

  3. Once they return, ask them about what they learned. Better yet, encourage them to share that information with their co-workers and address how what they learned connects to current co-op projects, concerns or priorities.

NRECA published this ROI guide to help your co-op get its money's worth out of education programs, whether NRECA's or another provider's. Share it with your employees so they can capture their goals for attending as well as your expectations and how they will meet them. We hope you and your team will find this guide useful.

Below are some additional resources about the manager's role in the application of learning:

Explore all NRECA has to offer for your employees' (and your own) professional development.