Saturday, April 30, 2016

Are Training Events a Waste of Money?

a trash baskets stuffed to overflowing with money

The short answer is Yes.

Based upon over 800 training measurement projects, we know that on average, only 1-in-5 people change their behavior after attending an isolated training program.  That is not to say that isolated training events do not have their place in terms of career development, professional development and the basic talent hygiene required to attract and retain talent.  It just means that you should clearly manage expectations in terms of impact.

It is no wonder that few executives are willing to spend money on one-off training programs…especially when money is tight. They seemed to recognize (before even many in the training world itself) that it takes more than a well-designed and professionally-delivered one- or two-day program to make a difference in terms of behavior change, performance improvement or business results. The point is that training, on its own, rarely makes good business sense.

For training to be approved and welcomed by executives, it must be persuasively linked to a business metric that they are convinced will have a meaningful impact on the business. Any learning solution should be aligned directly with the organization’s strategic goals. If, for example, the leadership team has decided that the company’s future success depends in great measure on increasing employee retention by raising the performance level of managers,  leadership training programs can be a large part of the plan. But that is just the beginning. 

You may have determined that the training has relevance to your company’s unique situation, current and future needs. But you have not taken steps to assess just which critical few leadership skills or competencies need to be built or strengthened for leaders to perform at their peak, nor to ensure adoption of the new skills and behaviors, nor have you put a system in place to measure progress and success. For training to be effective, you need to cover all these bases.

Once you know that the training makes sense in terms of the company strategy and you have executives’ support and backing, then you need to establish:

1. Business Metric to Move.  Identify the business metric to move and the value of moving it compared to other priorities.  Most leadership development programs strive to improve leadership execution effectiveness of key corporate strategies, grow revenues, increase performance, decrease costs, improve employee engagement or decrease retention.

2. Most Pressing Leadership Scenarios.  Identify the critical few leadership scenarios and challenges that matter most to best execute your strategy within your unique corporate culture.

3. Critical Few Leadership Skill Gaps.  Determine the specific leadership skill gaps of your target audience as compared with what you know is needed to succeed as a leader in your organization – for both today and in the near future.

4. Stakeholder Commitment.  Engage the target audience and their bosses with their clear understanding of the goals of the initiatives, where they stand currently, what you expect in terms of improved performance and how they will be measured and supported going forward.

5. Performance Coaching.  Make sure your leaders know how to coach effectively and are committed to doing so. Their long-term involvement in the process is critical to the success of the learning solution and the overall initiative. In fact in a recent study at a Fortune 500 Financial Services firm, of about 60 participants who received individual coaching, 9 out of 10 improved their scores in the critical areas measured.  Pretty impressive. And if you need another statistic to prove the point, of the almost 50 participants who did NOT receive coaching, their scores decreased in 9 out of 10 areas measured. 

6. Systems, Processes and Practices. Identify any barriers to behavior and performance change related to the systems, practices and processes required for improved performance.  The most common include hiring, onboarding, performance management and measurement, decision making, rewards and recognition, project management, communication, talent management and strategic planning.

7. Training Measurement.  The last piece of the puzzle is ongoing training measurement of leading activities and lagging results. That means measuring skill adoption and correlated performance results.

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