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Re-Imagine Return on Investment (ROI) in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Mindy Honcoop
on February 27, 2024

The alignment between Finance and Human Resources (HR) often falls short. With finance focused on financial health while HR concentrates on workforce nurturing. Overcoming challenges in this collaboration demands a fresh perspective on Return on Investment (ROI). Establishing credibility with CFO (Chief Financial Officer) partners is crucial for Chief People Officers (CPOs), requiring fluency in ROI language. Understanding and effectively communicating ROI is important for HR leaders in today’s evolving work environment. Aligning business priorities, identifying stakeholder pain points, and linking people costs to outcomes help HR gain Finance support. This article explores how organizations can rethink ROI and foster collaboration between Finance and HR to drive sustainable growth and improve employee experiences. 

What is Return on Investment? 

At its core, ROI measures the efficiency and profitability of an investment relative to its cost. In the realm of HR, this translates to assessing the value generated from human capital investments in areas such as training, employee benefits, and performance management. By quantifying the returns generated from these investments, HR leaders can demonstrate their impact on the organization’s bottom line. 

Challenges in Speaking About ROI

Despite its significance, discussing ROI in HR can be daunting for many leaders. Unlike traditional business functions where ROI is readily quantifiable (think sales or marketing campaigns), HR initiatives often involve intangible assets such as employee engagement and organizational culture, making it challenging to measure their direct impact on financial outcomes. This ambiguity can leave HR leaders struggling to articulate the value they bring to the table in concrete terms. 

Moreover, HR is traditionally viewed as a cost center rather than a revenue generator, further complicating the ROI conversation. This perception can lead to skepticism from stakeholders, particularly finance teams, who may question the tangible benefits of HR investments and demand evidence of their impact on the organization’s financial performance. 

7 Ways to Reframe Return on Investment for HR: Speaking the Language of Business

To overcome these challenges, HR leaders must transition towards reframing ROI in terms that resonate with key stakeholders. Rather than focusing solely on metrics and KPIs, HR should align its language and approach with the broader business objectives of the organization. 

(1) Shifting to Efficiency 

Reimagining ROI involves transcending quantity metrics to prioritize quality, particularly in HR technology investments. Efficiency ROI entails identifying organizational tasks and evaluating the time and resources needed for completion. Adopting modern technology solutions streamlines processes, automates repetitive tasks, and saves time and resources. For instance, AI-powered HR assistants handle routine inquiries, allowing HR professionals to focus on strategic initiatives. Measuring efficiency gains through technology adoption quantifies ROI in terms of time saved and increased productivity. 

(2) Understanding the Employee Journey 

Mapping employees’ interactions with HR technology solutions at various touch points helps organizations gauge ROI more accurately. When an employee’s experience with a technology meets their expectations, then trust is built and maintained. It is important to map out how employees feel about using technology in their workplace today. If users trust and enjoy the technology, they are more likely to use it. Auditing this information today provides you with an accurate view of the critical pain points that keep employees from being fully productive. By identifying these baseline measures, organizations can gauge ROI of transformative technology implemented more accurately. Metrics such as user adoption rates, satisfaction score, productivity levels, talent retention, and skill development effectiveness offer insights into how HR technology impacts, enabling employees to do their best work at the moments that matter most in their journey with the company. 

(3) Leveraging Data and Analytics 

HR leaders can leverage data analytics to measure the impact of HR initiatives on key business metrics such as revenue growth, profitability, and customer satisfaction. By demonstrating a clear link between HR investments and financial outcomes, HR can elevate its role from a cost center to a strategic partner in driving organizational success. Implementing analytics tools and tracking employee behavior enables organizations to gain insights into the performance and impact of their HR technology investments. Analyzing data facilitates the identification of trends, patterns, and areas for optimization, empowering organizations to refine strategies and maximize returns. 

(4) Aligning With Business Goals 

One effective strategy is to frame HR initiatives as business cases that address key stakeholder pain points and align with strategic business goals. This involves identifying specific challenges faced by the organization, quantifying the cost of not addressing these challenges, and presenting HR solutions as strategic interventions to mitigate risks and drive performance. Establishing clear, measurable objectives for technology implementations lays the foundation for determining the appropriate ROI type and associated metrics. Defining key performance indicators (KPIs) aligned with business goals, such as improving employee enablement or reducing turnover, guarantees accurate ROI measurements, enabling informed decisions on HR technology investments. Collaboration among departments initiatives drives alignment with overall business goals, fostering a culture of accountability and shared success. 

(5) Collaboration Across Departments 

HR Solutions are integral to the broader digital workplace strategy, calling for collaborative efforts across various departments. Breaking down silos and fostering cross-functional alignment enables a unified understanding of ROI measurement and optimization. Aligning HR technology goals with financial metrics, tracking productivity gains, optimizing HR costs, and making data-driven decisions about resource allocation enhances technology investments’ effectiveness and impact. This collaborative approach optimizes budgets and drives sustainable growth. 

(6) Employee Feedback 

Employee feedback is needed for assessing HR technology solutions’ effectiveness and driving continuous improvement. By soliciting feedback, organizations identify usability issues, address pain points, and refine the user experience. Feedback mechanisms also gauge technology’s impact on employee satisfaction and engagement, so HR technology solutions meet evolving workforce needs and deliver tangible ROI. Continuous monitoring and optimization identify improvement areas and optimize strategies to maximize ROI, keeping technology solutions aligned with business needs. 

(7) Adoption/Utilization 

Maximizing adoption and usage of HR technology solutions requires a comprehensive launch plan that includes communication strategies, training programs, and ongoing support mechanisms. By creating a seamless user experience and embedding the technology into the daily workflow, organizations can increase employee engagement and drive ROI through improved productivity and satisfaction. 

A New Perspective on Return on Investment

Traditional siloed HR metrics are insufficient for evaluating HR technology investments’ impact. HR leaders must adopt a comprehensive approach to ROI measurement. By considering the broader implications for the organization, including employee enablement, satisfaction, and overall business performance, organizations can make more informed decisions and drive sustainable growth and success. HR leaders must articulate business pain points and solutions’ impact to secure support. Understanding key stakeholders’ needs and building relationships fosters alignment with business goals. 

In Summary

In an era of increasing scrutiny and accountability, HR leaders must embrace the challenge of understanding and articulating ROI. By reframing ROI in the language of business and aligning HR initiatives with strategic objectives, HR can demonstrate its value as a driver of organizational performance and secure buy-in from key stakeholders. In doing so, HR can not only enhance its credibility but also contribute to the long-term success and sustainability of the organization. By aligning budget decisions with strategic objectives, leveraging people analytics, and embracing technology, organizations can drive sustainable growth, enhance employee experiences, and achieve business success. The collaboration between Finance and HR is no longer just a cost center and administrative arm but a powerful force that drives innovation and productivity in the digital era. Embracing these strategies enables businesses to make informed decisions, allocate resources effectively, and maintain a competitive edge. 

Image to promote our employee productivity savings  / return on investment estimator.


Mindy Honcoop

Mindy Honcoop is an experienced People Leader now serving as MeBeBot’s VP of Customer Strategy and Operations. Previous HR advisor to, Spiceworks Ziff Davis,, Blackbaud, and Expedia.