Training is supposed to boost morale, increase productivity and facilitate engagement. Each of these qualities betters the company and the employee alike, but that’s what training is supposed to do. All too often, an ineffective training program ends up being a waste of time and resources.
Companies dump a lot of effort into their training programs, and a lot of them are seeing a pretty poor return on their investment. A recent WSJ post on the matter of corporate training issues reports that, “U.S. firms spent about $156 billion on employee learning in 2011, the most recent data available, according to the American Society for Training and Development. But with little practical follow-up or meaningful assessments, some 90% of new skills are lost within a year, some research suggests.”
How do you make sure that your training dollars aren’t going to waste? There are a lot of how-to guides on improving and implementing training programs, but if there are already some counterproductive practices going on, who’s to say they won’t continue. Being aware of what makes a training program, is just as important as knowing what breaks one. Here are a few things to look out for in your training program.
You Don't Have Clearly Define Training Needs
Even the best training program means squat if they aren’t training for the right people for the right things. Training program leaders should make a conscious effort to align training with industry trends and needs. This actually starts with hiring and then trickles down to training. Consider supply and demand when structuring the training programs. It should be defined who needs training and in what areas. This can be determined through employee surveys and training-needs analysis.
As businesses and employees grow, responsibilities grow and shift. Much of these new or different tasks can be mastered through informal learning, but formal training is needed refine processes and ensure compliance and consistency.
Your Aren't Measuring Effectiveness
The employees have all gone through training and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. What a lot of companies don’t know is that there is actually a very weak correlation between an employee’s reaction to training and actual learning. You cannot improve upon something that isn’t measured.
After training is complete, the only questions shouldn’t be about whether or not the employee enjoyed their time in training, or even how effective the training was. Actual testing needs to be done to see if real learning took place. Everyone was happy with the catered lunch and the break from the office, but did they take anything away from this huge expense to the company? That is what should be measured.
Technology Doesn’t Trump Bad Management
Technology won’t solve all of your training woes. Yes, gamification, cloud-based programs and streamlined processes are fantastic, but they won’t outweigh current bad practices. According to training expert Eduardo Salas, “A simulation by itself isn't enough. You also need very clear and precise learning objectives, clear feedback, a form of measurement or assessment and regular opportunities to practice and get feedback.”
Additionally, managers need to set the tone and create an environment conducive to training. The team should be ready for the training and have the proper prerequisite knowledge. Then, after the training is complete, managers should set the proper conditions for these employees to continue their jobs. This means making sure that employees have the right tools and opportunities to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills. As we learned earlier, some 90% of new skills are lost within a year. Use it or lose it!
The dos and don'ts of training are plentiful. A push toward a more metrics driven and thoughtful program can make a big difference on the ROI of training. Training isn’t just something on a checklist to get rid of, it should be considered a powerful tool that requires insight and knowledge.