Your Personal Learning Plan — Part 2

8 Mar, 2023 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager’s Column: To get your training approved, do your homework and find out the ROI on learning the new skills.

In the previous issue of the CAD Manager’s Newsletter, I challenged you to come up with a learning plan to keep yourself technically current and more valuable to your company. If you didn’t think about your learning plan, you may want to take a look at the previous column before proceeding to gain context.

In this issue, I’ll show you how to prioritize your list of learning objectives in a way that will get your boss’s attention and get your training plan approved. Here goes.


Image source: Cacaroot/
Image source: Cacaroot/


Getting Started

In order to get the learning plan process rolling, you have to identify your own shortcomings and figure out how to eliminate them via training. The real trick is to craft a personal learning plan that meets the company’s needs by making you more productive. Once you have that plan, it’s time to talk with the boss. Let’s continue using our fictional CAD manager, Bill, to illustrate how to sell your education plan to your boss.


Financially Selling the Training

Now, Bill finds himself in the position of having to prove why his learning plan is financially worthwhile for the company. At first glance, the plan seems reasonable, but how can he prove it? And, since implementing the plan will require training, how can training be made a priority?

The short answers to these questions are:

Prove worthiness: Contrast the cost of training with the cost of doing nothing, which causes errors and rework. I frequently sum this up by saying “It is cheaper to train someone to solve our problem than to keep having the problem” or by asking the rhetorical question “Why can’t we afford to train yet can afford to keep messing up?”

Get priority: Show that the sooner training is completed, the sooner the company will reap the financial rewards. Use phrases like, “The sooner I know what I’m doing, the sooner I can solve the problem,” to get management’s attention.


Financial Impact of Doing Nothing

Let’s say that Bill has gathered some information about the financial impact of not coordinating jobs well. Here’s what he’s learned:

  • Every month, Bill must coordinate the files for a facility project that will be ongoing for 2 years. Bill must work with a site plan being created in Civil 3D, IFC building geometry, and a variety of components must be placed inside the building that are created with AutoCAD and SOLIDWORKS.
  • Presently, Bill must send the IFC files to a consultant for processing to import and cleanup the files to generate a building envelope file. This process costs $300 per month (3 hours @ $100/hour).
  • Three times per year, on average, the consultant can’t complete the IFC translations quickly enough and work would be delayed if Bill doesn’t step in. In these cases, Bill struggles to do the work in house, but takes 10 hours on overtime at 150% of his normal $50/hour labor rate.

So, here’s what we know about the financial problems associated with Bill not being able to perform his own coordination activities:

  • $2,700 dollars is spent on outside consultants per year (9 months * $300/month)
  • $2,250 dollars is spent on overtime for Bill per year (3 projects per year * 10 hours per project * $75/hour overhead)

In summary: $4,950 per year is spent simply dealing with IFC file manipulations that Bill isn’t efficient at doing.


Quantifying the Training

So, now that we know what the annual cost of dealing with IFC coordination is, we’ve got to figure out what training Bill will cost. Here’s the information we’ve gathered:

  • Bill can attend a custom half day class with a local training specialist to learn exactly what he needs to do to perform the translations. This class will cost $1,500 to setup and attend.
  • Bill will be gone for a half day to take the training which will cost $200 (4 hours * $50/hour)
  • Bill will put in his own time to work through example problems and make sure he understands the translation process.

Therefore, the total cost of training is $1,700.


Quantifying the Savings

If Bill can learn to do the IFC file manipulations in 3 hours at his labor rate then the annual cost of him doing the work is simply $1,800 (3 hours/month * 12 months * $50/hour) rather than the $4,950 the company had been spending.

The Savings is therefore = $4,950 - $1,800 = $3,150


ROI Analysis

So, what is the impact of Bill pursuing the training? We need to look at a two-year scenario as that will be the length of the project) by computing a return on investment (ROI) for each year. Here’s how you do it:

  • ROI = Savings / Costs * 100%
  • For year 1: Savings = $3,150 and Costs = $1,700 so the ROI is 185%
  • For year 2: Savings = $3,150 and Costs = 0 so the ROI is infinite.

Now, in reality, the training should really be computed over a two-year average which is usually about the time span you can assume that the software won’t change too much, thus requiring new training. If we computed a two-year average ROI, we’d see this result:

  • Two-year ROI = $6,300 in savings / $1,700 in costs = 371%

Or, put another way, $1,700 invested in Bill today will pay you back $6,300 over the next two years. Would you make that investment? I would, and so would Bill’s boss if Bill explains the numbers.


The Boss’ View

If Bill takes his learning plan along with the ROI computations to his boss several interesting things are going to happen:

  • His training will most likely get approved.
  • His boss will want the training to get underway sooner rather than later.
  • His boss will understand that Bill isn’t just asking to go to training because it is a topic Bill wants to learn about but, rather, a topic that will help the company perform better.

All in all, Bill is now going to become a better trained CAD manager who will be held in much higher regard (and valued more) by his boss as a result. And,isn’t being better trained with more job security a good combination?


Now Prioritize Your List

I hope that seeing the example case of Bill has helped you imagine how you can financially justify your own learning plan. I realize it takes time to collect the data and really think about your own situation, but I promise it’ll help you get the training approved.

As you compute the ROI (return on investment) criteria for your training requirements take care to always tackle the highest ROI training items first so you can get the best payback for your company. And, as you list out your training priorities based on ROI, make sure your boss knows you’re doing it so they can be impressed with your judgment and business savvy.


Summing Up

Now that you know how to craft a learning plan and sell it to your management what are you waiting for? So, get going on your financially justified learning plan and reap the career benefits of doing so.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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