As seasoned HR pros, you know what works well in your training and development program.
And you’re familiar with many of the most common training and development mistakes. But some still sneak under your radar, even some that seem obvious once you look for them.
Let’s take a look at five common aspects of training programs that impact the long-term return on your organization’s biggest investment – finding and keeping the best employees.
Get it right and you’ll be able to show leadership where their investment is going and the very real returns they’re getting back — in employee talent and engagement, and in dollars and cents.
That will keep your training and development program in the spotlight as a cost-effective source of new and improved talent and organizational success, rather than a repair shop spending money trying to fix the same problems over and over.
Don’t skip front-end analysis
You probably get a constant stream of requests for new training programs and courses as managers work to keep their teams up to speed on the latest business challenges and procedures.
It can be tempting to dive right in and build new offerings based on those requests without doing some extra work to make sure they are the best place to place your limited investment resources.
But you need to be sure of the return on those investments if you expect to get approval and funding for other critical training and development programs.
And that means you need to understand how your people are working now, what’s changing in those jobs, and how urgent new training really is compared to other priorities.
By putting together a survey, visiting the shop floor or worksite or sitting in on team meetings, you’ll see and hear what’s truly needed before you invest time and money in developing a new training program.
Whether you confirm the training truly is needed, determine that it can wait, or discover that managers haven’t understood what’s really needed, time spent assessing and analyzing up front will improve your chances of success with this program and with getting approval and funding for your next effort.
Clear goals are key to T&D success
Failing to plan is planning to fail. We’ve heard it a million times and it is as true for HR pros building training and development programs as it is for the individual trainers you select to lead your sessions.
It can be tempting to trust in a trainer’s experience and expertise and let them set the agenda and create the curriculum.
Problem is, even experienced subject matter experts can be overconfident. They may think they can be effective trainers without a rock-solid plan and an understanding of how it fits into the bigger picture.
In reality, they’ll need your input to be sure they are on track.
Workforce training and development is a strategic necessity for every organization. The quality of that training can spell the difference between continued growth or losing ground to your competition.
And it will definitely determine whether you can attract, hold onto and keep improving top-notch employees.
That means that your training programs have to connect directly to organizational strategic goals, and that the goals for each session are detailed, specific and support the larger plan.
Then you can measure how effective you’ve been and where changes will make your program even better. And you’ll be able to show leadership exactly what you set out to do, how it supports their strategic plans and how successful you’ve been.
One style doesn’t fit all
You’re never really investing in a T&D “program” you’re investing in each and every individual you’re training.
Every one of us learns in a different way and at a different speed. Even employees doing the same job often understand what they do, and why, in vastly different ways.
They all come into your training with different experience levels, strengths and training gaps.
Expecting them to magically take away exactly the same knowledge and understanding is just unrealistic.
Be clear about what is most important to you, why it’s important, and how success will be measured.
If you don’t understand your audience for a given course or training session, you risk being too basic or too advanced. And, whether they check out mentally because they’re bored or because they feel stupid, if workers lose focus during training, your investment checks out with them.
And that links back to your front-end analysis.
Understanding your team’s different learning styles and where employees have specific learning strengths and challenges will help you to design flexibility into your program and improve outcomes and your training and development ROI.
Expertise doesn’t guarantee a good trainer
It seems to make sense: pull someone off the front line and get them passing along their knowledge to new or less experienced employees.
But training is a learned skill, just like anything else. And you definitely don’t want someone at the front of the virtual or real world meeting room who doesn’t want to be there.
They might resent being pulled off the job, which can impact quotas, commissions, or tips. They might just be a little too cynical. Or, ideally, they are just nervous and need to be eased into the role after some training of their own
Most effective employees can become good or even great trainers if they don’t have a lousy experience up front. So use an“on-boarding” process similar to how you’d bring on any new employee.
Understanding how to apply different training methods and learning styles, getting comfortable with the tech they’ll use training to groups of varying sizes, and shadowing your top trainers to see how it’s done “hands on” are all important to getting comfortable with the role.
And, if at all possible, give them a chance to practice on a “friendly audience” that is clearly rooting for them to succeed.
That way, when they hit the stage for real, they can handle the butterflies, won’t feel like they need to apologize for being new to training and won’t want to lean on a guest subject matter expert to make the audience feel the time they’re investing is worth it.
When your trainers are confident, enthusiastic, well prepared and clearly happy to be sharing their knowledge, your workforce will learn more quickly, ask smart questions, and retain what they’ve learned.
Watch as they get back on the job and share their new knowledge with co-workers. You might just spot your next training star.
Who holds the T&D purse strings?
T&D is a major investment for almost every organization – U.S. companies spent $87.6 billion on training initiatives in 2018, as measured by Training magazine’s Training Industry Report.
Research indicates that the return on training investment ranges from marginal to almost unbelievable. In a study cited on the Southern New Hampshire University website, companies reported ROI (net monetary benefits of training/total costs of training * 100) ranging from 40% to well over 300%. Of course your mileage will vary, but these are the types of results your leadership will be looking for.
Even if your organization reliably funds the T&D program, there’s never a guarantee that will continue as new strategic opportunities and challenges arise.
Keep your CFO informed about your current programs, your plans and your results and you’ll be able to play a role in identifying and supporting those strategic priorities and keep the investment coming.