Why most well-intentioned training initiatives fail to deliver value and impact and the way to beat this dilemma
The investments that organizations make in developing their people are heavily undermined when there’s a struggle to derive value and business impact. In my experience as a learning and development professional, I have often times had clients throw back the challenge to my propositions by asking – who else have you done this for? We operate in a different industry from your previous client, how will this work for us? What value will your engagement deliver? How will we know it’s been a success?
In fact, in 2016 The Association for Talent Development reported that 95% of training was enjoyed by participants but only 37% of training resulted in participants learning the training content. Only 13% of participants reached a level where they applied what they learnt and a mere 3% of training reached a level where the organization felt its impact.
An investment in learning is expected to pay returns in terms of improved performance such as greater productivity, enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn rate, lower cost of business or even higher profit margins. The dividend of any training program is guaranteed when it is derived from the business measures that drive it. Simply put, if a training program is not aligned or connected to a business measure, no improvement may be linked to the program.
The six-million-dollar question then becomes: ‘How can organizations optimize business outcomes while using training as a critical enabler?
From experience I have found that setting out to answer the subsequent three (3) questions comprehensively could be a sure means of getting there. Here is what I have learnt.
What business needs does one want the training to meet?
Defining business needs from the very outset will help to align the organization’s strategic imperatives to its key talent initiatives by targeting its most important talent gaps and developing targeted solutions for filling them. This will, in turn, help focus management on solving the few most important challenges that yield the biggest impact.
What will the learners do differently and better after training that will impact the desired business’ outcomes?
The true goal of training is to drive behaviour change. The drive for behaviour change is key because for the training to be effective it's paramount to know what valued behaviours are needed in a business to design learning transfer environments that support them.
As a professional role player, I have found that role plays provide a practical contextual training model that facilitates behaviour change because:
- They include lifelike and relatable business simulations for learners to practice managing complex human interactions in a safe and controlled learning environment.
- They allow learners to examine the intricacies of human behavior and their influence on corporate culture and business results through a present-centered process that focusses on the here and now reality.
- They transform a learning challenge into an insight, a habit into a new set of behaviors and a plan into corporate action.
For learning to be truly effective in its delivery it must engage the learners at a more personal level by addressing their needs and underlying motivations needed to learn a new way of working.
What measures will be used to determine the success of the business outcomes?
Operations in any organization happen along a continuum that involves multi-channel support functions, front-facing and backend staff, multi-channel service points and different payment options amongst others. To become a success any learning and development initiative must:
- Ensure success measures are determined and developed from the training design stage. It’s fundamentally important to explore all the possible outcomes that might be measured, seek to agree on what will be measured and when as well as how much of a change is required to
consider the training program a success.
- Engage with key stakeholders and process owners whose input will help determine how to get an ‘early read’ on the learning outputs.
- Involve immediate supervisors of those seconded for training in order to offer post-training support through targeted on the job coaching and performance conversations including 360° post-training evaluation assessments.
If managed well, learning interventions can become an indispensable, strategic tool with a significant impact on an organization’s goals.