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is all Work-Place training DOOMED to fail?
We’ve all experienced it before: the company spends huge amounts of its budget on learning & development for employees. For the most part the training programmes are great, the trainers are skilled and engaging, and the content is relevant. Participants enjoy their learning experience thoroughly; they rate the course as ‘excellent’. The company deems the money well spent. However, a month later it is back to business as usual with little of the expected knowledge and skill improvements making it back into the workplace. Two months down the line and there is no visible impact in job behaviour and/or performance. Naturally this leaves a bad taste in management’s mouth along with a justifiable reluctance to invest any more of the company’s hard-earned profits into training and development. Inevitably training takes the heat.
In 2011, the American Society for Training & Development reported that companies in the US spent approx. US$156bn on employee learning; however, as a result of “very little practical follow-up or meaningful assessments, some 90% of new skills are lost within a year”. This means only 10% of the training spend, approx. US$15,6bn, was money well spent. Similar studies report between only 10-15% of training initiatives resulting in positive returns on investment.
This somewhat shocking result begs the question: why? Training providers quickly follow this up with a question of their own: what can we do about it?
In answering the “why” research reveals many of the following factors play a part in the failure of training alone to produce the expected knowledge and skill outcomes:
No training-needs analysis (TNA) is conducted to determine who needs training or what kind of training is needed. Similarly, training decision-makers often confuse the symptom for the problem (e.g. failure to complete tasks on time automatically results in Time Management training being booked). Training courses are selected because the title and some of the content seem to address the issue – little attempt is made to truly determine the cause/problem and ensure the training is designed to target this cause
Training content and outcomes are often generic and vague, and are not aligned to or driven by specific business objectives or job needs. Similarly, the trainer is not provided with accurately defined learning objectives & behaviour expectations, which would enable him or her to coach the participants to convert their learning experience into workplace and performance application/improvements
No real evaluation or measurement is conducted to determine how well participants have learned or are able to apply their learning practically
Many stakeholders view the once-off training event as a magic wand to address all longstanding performance and behaviour problems. They expect change or improvements to be immediately evident post training and don’t see training as only one part of an integrated learning process. Additionally, they forget it takes time and practice to establish and master a new skill or behaviour; it takes time and practice to replace old, often deeply entrenched habits
The workplace is not geared towards preparing participants to attend training or towards reinforcing their learning post training. There exists little or no supervised opportunity to practice and master new skills; feedback, encouragement and workplace coaching, which are essential to sustaining changes in behaviour and performance, are mostly lacking
The participant’s role in training is usually regarded as one of attendance and they are not held accountable for application and workplace results
To be effective, learning processes must solve these challenges to ensure a positive return on the training investment. A once-off training course or learning programme forms part of an integrated learning process; it cannot alone shoulder the responsibility of imparting new and sustainable skills, knowledge and behaviour.
In addressing the “what can we do about it” the following actions can support lasting improvements in skill and ensure a better return on the training investment:
Accurately identify the cause of skill, knowledge and behaviour challenges (e.g. failure to complete tasks on time may indicate an employee with conflicting business priorities, or lack of authority to make decisions, or ineffective business systems or processes, etc.). Additionally a training needs analysis may be conducted
Based on the problem-analysis/training needs analysis, design or select a training course that is pertinent and focused on business-driven outcomes – there must be a clear correlation between the training and the participant’s job
Reasonable timeframes should be set to allow the participant to apply and practice the new skill – mastery takes months of reinforcement
Providing a workplace learning-framework which should include planned and supervised opportunities to practice and master new skills; feedback, encouragement and workplace coaching go a long way in assisting participants to drive their own performance and progress. Immediate leaders also need to be proficient in not only participating but also in driving the workplace component of the learning process
Formulate & implement relevant measures to hold participants accountable for applying their learning by means of assessments, assignments, and business results related to the training
For more information on implementing an effective and integrated learning programme in your organisation, contact Infusion Consulting at / or call Belinda Peddie at infusion Consulting on : +27 (0)11 465 3944 l +27(0)83 788 9911
Author : Amanda Mare’ – Infusion Consulting’s Training Manager
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