Having been in the business world for over 36 years, I have experienced some really bad training. Don’t get me wrong. I love to learn new things, especially if they will help me be more successful. But some of the training was just plain insulting. At the time, I did not know why I was taking the training class, how it was going to help me succeed and most importantly, what was going to happen to all of the work I wasn't doing because I was in a classroom
Then there were those times when I went to a great training session and learned lots of great new skills, only to go back to my job and have my boss ignore or diminish what I learned. It was just easier to go back to business as usual. Only this time, with a bigger workload because I missed all of those days.
Increasing training ROI begins with Leadership Commitment.
Step 1. Leaders need to communicate the value and importance of the training to those who will be participating in it.
Obtaining leadership commitment to the development initiatives is a critical part of any training. Ideally, commitment should come from the highest level. The CEO/President has the opportunity to define what the organization wants to accomplish with the training, who is going to be involved in the training, the benefits to each person involved in learning and using the new skills and how the organization is going to support the process of implementing the new skills and behavior.
Step 2. Leaders need to provide an environment that supports new learning.
According to the Research Institute of America, knowledge retention from classroom training alone is only 15% after 3 weeks with NO follow-up! However, studies by several groups have shown that when management supports using new skills, there is as much as 70% greater usage and retention. If leaders are reinforcing the right skills, this leads to improved performance, not only for the individual, but for also for the team and organization.
Step 3. Leaders need to articulate their tangible expectations of the use and results of the new skills.
Psychologists have shown that significant learning takes place when it is directly related to meaningful purposes and motives of the individual. The rewards for learning must be immediate, personal and certain. If the learner perceives the training to be important and relevant to his/her own purposes, and believes that using the new skills will bring immediate results, guaranteed, then he/she will engage in it and use it.
Step 4. Their people need to know that their leaders believe that what they are learning is going to bring value to the company and to themselves.
In a recent study conducted by Wilson Learning, one of the respondents stated it most clearly,
“Workplace learning must align with business strategies and change, and ideally be a top down action. Isolated training without executive support would create no value for the organization.”
In order for training initiatives to be viewed as strategic, the outcomes must show a positive impact on the organization's performance - not just training ROI, but strategic impact on growth, market share, investor return and other financial and non-financial indicators. Leaders need to share the strategy and expectations from all stakeholders.
To see real organizational performance improvement and to realize a better return on training investments, leadership needs to be involved and committed. Leadership’sresponsibility to getting the desired results from development initiatives begins with:
- Clear, compelling objectives
- Commitment to training as strategy
- Removing organizational barriers
- Reinforcing, coaching, supporting
- Rewarding, recognizing
- Providing resources
- Connecting to performance criteria
Finding and retaining the right talent is more important than ever, as is having the right skills to execute company strategies. Training now needs to play a more strategic role in preparing people for the tasks that they need to perform to insure the company's success.