Letters to the Editor

CLO Praise
I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I have gladly just re-subscribed for the free Chief Learning Officer magazine and the CLO Executive Briefings e-newsletter.

I am not a business CLO. However, I do have a background launching and working in a corporate university. At the moment, I am an assistant professor of human resource development in a Midwestern university. I find that CLO magazine and the articles therein are connected with the real world of work in an HRD environment, and I treasure it greatly. Sharing some of the information in this magazine with my students lends credibility to what they are learning in class and its application in the professional field.

Daniela Truty
Assistant Professor of Human Resource Development
Northeastern Illinois University

‘ROX’ on Training
A number of people have raised the issue of the return on investment (ROI) for training in the past 15 to 20 years, most notably Jack Phillips and Thomas Stewart.

The focus on ROI for training has been an excellent movement for the entire training and testing industry. It lets others in the corporate world know that we’re conscious of the impact our efforts have on the bottom line. It focuses interest on efficiency and results. It also attempts to let us communicate with our C-level peers within the enterprise.

The problem is that “ROI on training” is an inaccurate term. Accountants will clarify that investment is that set of expenses resulting in assets on the balance sheet. Unfortunately, despite the popularity of Thomas A. Stewart’s 1997 book, “Intellectual Capital,” actuaries have yet to figure out how to place knowledge on the balance sheet. It’s just not there.

Maybe that’s a good thing, since government can’t tax it. But it means that when you talk to an accountant about ROI for training, the first thing he or she is going to say is, “Where’s the resulting asset?” If you can’t point to one, the conversation is over, from their point of view.

So, to talk in accounting terms, we should more precisely talk in terms of “return on expenses.” What is the return the enterprise gets from expenditures on training and testing? While this makes sense, it doesn’t make for a good acronym, since “ROE” in accounting terms already means “return on equity.”

Not to be deterred, we can use the X in “Expenses” and make the term ROX. Using the term “ROX” has several benefits. It is more accurate and makes sense in accounting parlance. It reminds us that training and testing are an expense on the corporate ledger, no matter how much of an investment we consider them.

Wallace Judd
Executive Director
The Performance Testing Council

Emotional Intelligence
This letter concerns the article by Fred Harburg, “The Emotionally Intelligent CLO,” in the July 2004 issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine. I have read just about every piece of literature on this topic in the last 15 years and respect the diversity of opinions on such a thought-provoking phenomena.

What left me tremendously disappointed with Fred’s piece in particular was that he gushed rehashed ideas without doing his homework. His piece would have been relevant and thought-provoking in 1998, after Goleman popularized the concept, yet before the flood of research that has given EQ legs to stand on. Other than the quote from Gerald Mathews (a perpetual believer that EQ is not separate from regular intelligence), there wasn’t a single piece of information in the article that wasn’t outdated.

That said, emotional intelligence certainly does have strong empirical support behind its utility and effectiveness, less than a decade after it first became popular. What other popular, mainstay leadership development concept is able to say that? I can’t think of one (think, 7 Habits, situational leadership or, worse yet, “Who Moved My Cheese?”).

Dr. Travis Bradberry

Is ‘Near Hands-On’ Good Enough?
I enjoyed reading “The Promise and Reality of Technology-Based Simulations,” by Michael Brennan and George Kao in the May 2004 issue. However, I’d like to elaborate on their advice to readers who are considering the use of simulations in their training programs.

As the article suggests, a key consideration for corporate training professionals is choosing both the topics and student roles where simulations will deliver the best ROI. Unfortunately, beyond soft-skills training, there is no consensus today. Therefore, I recommend using an easy litmus test: Is “near hands-on” good enough?

For instance, some have heralded simulations as a cheaper and safer replacement for live, hands-on software training. Is “near hands-on” good enough? The answer depends on the complexity of the application, how often it changes, the subject matter and, finally, the audience. I’d argue that “near hands-on” is good enough, for example, to effectively train an employee to use the company’s HR system to submit expense reports.

On the other hand, “near hands-on” is not good enough to train an IT user to configure and manage the company’s e-mail system or to train a knowledge worker to use the customized customer relationship management (CRM) system for ad-hoc purposes. In these cases, programmed simulations simply can’t keep pace with the complexity and rate-of-change of the software or the level of dynamic interaction required by their users.

In summary, simulations can be effective in fulfilling select software training needs that entail “learning by interacting.” Fortunately, innovative solutions now exist to cost-effectively deliver reliable, fully immersive hands-on training online to students whose roles require “learning by doing.”

Marcus MacNeill
Surgient Inc.
Austin, Texas

Ph.D. Study
I am currently a Ph.D. student in Education Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service. Within the next few months, I will have to choose my dissertation topic. My question to the readership of Chief Learning Officer magazine is this: Considering your vast experience and knowledge, if you had the opportunity to study any topic related to your field that would have impact, what would it be?

My experience is business-related. After years in senior-level sales, marketing and education operations positions in a large corporation, I have made the move to independent consulting.

Your ideas, suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Ann Debelack

To share your comments, opinions, questions or suggestions with Chief Learning Officer editors, write letters@clomedia.com. Letters may be edited prior to publication. Please include your full name and, if desired, company name and title, when writing to us.

September 2004 Table of Contents