An alternative to assessing ROI in “softer” organizational initiatives


Charles D. Kerns, Ph.D.

Pepperdine University



Kenneth Ko, Ph.D.

Pepperdine University


While certain models on assessing return on investment of human resource related programs might carry some appeal, this article considers reasons to be wary of searching for ROI in “softer” organizational initiatives, and suggests the Linkage Research Model as an alternative approach. The data for this article came from client engagements, targeted literature reviews, discussions with key executives on the value of assessing ROI of management development initiatives, and from the authors' applied research work.

Interviews with key executives and conversations with colleagues relating to assessing “softer” organizational initiatives served as additional data sources. Applied researchers interested in further reviewing the value of ROI and the Linkage Research Model for practitioners are encouraged to formally and systematically address these subjects using more quantitative methods.

There is likely more value in measuring business outcome metrics like profits, productivity and revenues than spending resources to calculate ROI estimates for “softer” organizational initiatives.  Managerial leaders and applied researchers can benefit from the perspectives offered. They may focus more on methodologies that address business outcomes including the Linkage Research Model rather than pursue the approach of assessing ROI in “softer” organizational initiatives.