I've been a proponent for training on our team since I've started with a new company. I'm dealing with two newer technologies now and my peers have given me their opinion that additional training would help everyone, including some new hires to the team. However, management hasn't bought into this idea. They say yes we should do it, but it never happens.

I'm making the assumption that they don't feel it's worth the cost, but I'm not aware of anyone actually trying to measure it's effectiveness after the fact in our company other than they just give survey's when people do training and that is about it.

The problem is I haven't been able to find any independent studies to show the ROI for developer training. Everything I've found has been for other areas of the company, like HR or sales, unless it's coming directly from a company that does training, so it's not independent. About all I've come up with is a comment that it will pay for itself by increased developer productivity in 3 months. I have no idea what that was based on.

I will add that I work for a healthcare services company and that our CIO has stated that we are now a technology company. They have invested in everyone taking SCRUM training, which I have taken. They are allocating money for developer training for the technologies we work with and other groups have gotten it, just not my team. I have been asked by my managers, both my current and previous to fill out requests for training, which I have done four times now. It's just never been approved.

Has anyone else dealt with this problem and came up with an effective solution?

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    Maybe you should read DeMarco's The Deadline. Doesn't directly deal with training, but getting the metrics would probably involve setting up two representative teams and compare their performance later. – qwerty_so Dec 10 '16 at 22:48
  • If they're not interested (for whatever reason, roi or anything else), then they're not interested. Finding an "independent study" just to prove your point will be annoying, and it still won't happen. It'll only happen if there's a budget for it, free staff time for it, and if it seems like their idea. But sounds like you've already pushed so hard that it'll be generally recognized as your idea. Pushing even harder now won't make it happen: it'll just make you seem like an annoying stick-in-the-mud to those who control your career advancement. Accept defeat and work within your constraints – John Forkosh Dec 11 '16 at 5:34
  • “management hasn't bought into this idea. They say yes we should do it, but it never happens” – Did you merely ask about training in general and then they didn't send you to any training, or did you ask about concrete programs, talks, and seminars, and then they said yes but not right now? – amon Dec 11 '16 at 6:52
  • What is the cost of failing the project? – Basile Starynkevitch Dec 11 '16 at 16:54
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    Is a IT company? What's the rotation rate of the IT staff? There's something IT companies can not afford so happily. It's loosing knowledge (experienced and well trained employees). – Laiv Dec 11 '16 at 18:51

Your real problem may be your management at least claims it is important, but you conclude that it isn't because they don't do anything. I think you need to take additional steps to make this happen (If you did this, you may want to mention it in your question.).

  1. Get a training quote.
  2. Submit this quote to the person(s) who must approve it. Include the amount of time-off.
  3. Have a coverage plan. You may not all be able to go at once. Identify steps during the training where email, phone calls, etc. can be addressed. You may have to do some work in the evening. Sorry, you're training and not on vacation.
  4. Keep pushing until someone says no.

If you're waiting for management to work all this out, it isn't going to happen.

You're going to have to get a hold of a lot of numbers for your firm before you could calculate ROI. You're going to be doing an estimate. If you can compare to previous years when you have had no training, there may be some comparison. An alternative is to have a discussion with someone in your accounting department and give them the cost of the training. They may be able to plug this into budget numbers and provide management with the answer.

You never know. This could just be purely based on some sort of flat annual budget numbers for your group. Maybe next year, you can get them to squeeze training into the amount of money spent.

Edit: If other departments are getting training, you may be able to get some information on how fast they were able to adopt new technologies. You may have to come up with an estimate of how long your group will take without training and use that as a comparison.

In Addition: Try to find out if there are leaders in your company that are against paying for training. It is possible, they're not satisfied with the ROI on training in these other groups. Unfortunately, if they squandered their opportunity, it makes it tougher on everyone. You may need to show you and your team are going to show some results.

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    You are right. We have done the quote already, but I can't stop pushing yet. I've been tenacious before when I knew I was right and it paid off. Thanks! – user39741 Dec 12 '16 at 16:55

When dealing with management everyone suggest framing the problem in the context of money, ROI, etc. And that has indeed the largest chances of success. But not in this case. The problem here is you can't measure ROI on software developer training.

ROI means to measures the amount of return on an investment compared to the cost of that investment. Here the investment is training. What is the return on the training?

  • programmer happiness? Better employee retention?
  • Will the project be delivered sooner? By how much?
  • Will the code be of better quality? Quality compared to what? How the project would have turned out if you didn't have the training?
  • increased programmer productivity? The jury is still out on that one.
  • etc;

The problem here is that you are not measuring output of assembly line workers producing some gizmo. One developer produces 100 gizmos per day, apply training, then developer produces 200 gizmos per day. It doesn't work like that.

Software developers are knowledge workers. The output a developer produces is often too abstract for other people to understand (except other developers). Currently there are no scientific methods to measure productivity of a knowledge worker so there is no way to measure how training would affect that either. If during the morning shower the developer figures out the solution to a difficult problem is that spark of insight the result of the training he's been receiving recently or some other cause? How do you put a number on that? You can't.

So playing the ROI card here doesn't work because you can't measure stuff in this context. I suggest another approach.

Think of "Why?" and think of "How?"

What problems do you have now? Is it making your work harder? Is it an impediment in some way? Is the team lead spending time explaining the same thing over and over to the newbies instead of focusing on proper design of the solution you are building, thus creating possible risks down the road? Explain why training would be beneficial and what aspects of your work it will improve. No manager in his right mind will say no to a team trying to improve their work.

Then think of how you can improve the situation. You have decided it's more training. Good. But how? A manager might understand the need for more training but might not understand the need to fly the entire team to some conference somewhere to listen to an internationally recognized speaker for a few hours. What methods of delivery do you have for this training? Does a book help? Can management buy some 50$ book that the team can read and get better understanding? Can you have a reading group or a tech team meeting once per sprint for 1-2 hours where all the team discusses on the topics they find difficult on their day to day activity and ask for advice of the other teammates? Does a monthly subscription to some learning platform help? Start with the ideal situation all the way down to the minimum stuff that would do the trick.

Then have a talk on these two points with management. If you get the foot in the door with something simpler and cheaper, with time maybe you might get access to other training too.

  • I don't understand how the task of creating something that is sold, is an abstraction. Figuring out what you spend on development in a given period of time and comparing it to sales isn't that hard. Do it it enough over a period of time and you may even be able to make predictions. – JeffO Dec 11 '16 at 20:23
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    @JeffO There are just too many variables to tell if action X is really what affected sales. Also, the effects might be heavily time-lagged. More developer training might not have effect now, but might have effect 2-3 years later as the code they wrote increases in quality and thus requires less maintenance. – Euphoric Dec 11 '16 at 21:27
  • I agree that one of the banes of IT is the idea that software development is like "assembly line" work. It isn't, but there are a lot of non-technical managers running IT and that is how they think. Very good answer though. – user39741 Dec 12 '16 at 16:59
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    If ROI wasn't measurable then engaging in developer training would be purely subjective risk-taking. Why engage in something when there's no evidence it adds anything to ROI? That's like believing in homeopathy. The thing is ROI is measurable, just difficult to measure. – Brad Thomas Dec 12 '16 at 17:26
  • Right, you can always measure ROI to some degree of accuracy. It may not be very accurate, but I believe ROI is always measurable. – user39741 Dec 12 '16 at 18:45

Prove that it is required with cold hard facts.

Follow this process:

  • make the case
  • submit the proposal
  • get tacit approval / disapproval

This is where you are. The next steps are key. Wait for the following events as evidence of your need:

  • bugs by more junior members
  • inability to attract and hire senior developers
  • inability to train junior developers into senior developers
  • slowness in getting out new features
  • hiring more juniors isn't helping get things done

Each time you encounter the above, make a note to mention it in your next regular scheduled meeting with the power that be and see if you can refer to how training would help. The ROI on training is that it reduces the above issues. Of course it's hard to measure the cost of a bug that doesn't happen or is fixed more quickly.

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    Why the downvote on this? It seems an acceptable answer. – user39741 Dec 12 '16 at 18:47

protected by gnat Dec 12 '16 at 17:24

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