There is no shortage of books, articles and white papers that discuss strategies and techniques for making businesses successful. Ultimately, however, all of these strategies and techniques are simply means of ensuring that firms maximize revenue and minimize costs. This reality poses a challenge for the individuals who oversee employee training for two reasons. First, the leaders of most employee training organizations are unable to demonstrate any relationship between the training they offer and corporate profits. Second, training in most organizations is viewed as a cost that must continually be minimized.

This challenge is not a new phenomenon. Just as there is no shortage of books, articles and white papers on how to make businesses successful, the same can be said of books, articles and white papers on how to demonstrate the business impact of training. Those resources notwithstanding, the strategies forwarded by such publications have largely been unsuccessful at helping learning leaders effectively communicate the business impact of their training programs. This failure is perhaps best evidenced by a 2011 survey conducted by the ROI Institute, in which only 8 percent of the 96 Fortune 500 CEOs surveyed felt that the individuals who oversaw their company’s employee training organizations were successfully demonstrating a link between the training that they offered and increases in corporate revenue.

Think Differently

What if, rather than attempting to communicate an indirect relationship between employee training and corporate profits, learning leaders focused more of their efforts on directly generating revenue from the training programs they already offer? One way of accomplishing this goal is by providing training programs to customers that were developed for employees. Luke Kempski, president of JPL, a marketing, communications and learning solutions agency based in Harrisburg, PA, proposed such an approach without the revenue component in a 2012 article for Training Industry, Inc.

Perhaps the best example of a company extending employee-based training to customers as a means of generating revenue is Apple, Inc. Apple leveraged the same training program that it provided to employees to teach them how to use Apple products and offered those programs to customers as part of its one-to-one program for a $99 annual fee. Anyone who’s visited an Apple retail store in the last few years can see the business impact of that offering.

Over the next few months, I’ll be offering thoughts and examples of the process required to leverage employee-based training as a means of generating revenue from clients.