Training Is Not a Silver Bullet: 3 Key Steps to Maximize Your Investment in Training
A few years ago, I was flying to a client engagement and started speaking with the woman sitting next to me. After learning what we each did for a living, she asked me how I would describe my ideal client. Surprisingly, I had never before been asked that or considered it. After giving it some thought, I shared that my ideal client would be one where we have access to senior management, where senior management is fully engaged (not granting one interview and disappearing) and where there is an understanding of and commitment to sustainability.
Several years have passed since that flight and those same three qualities still define our ideal client. In this work, our greatest disappointment (and frustration) is the client who decides not to take our advice in implementing the steps we know are essential to their success. They know they need training but many don’t seem to either understand or believe us when we explain that the training event alone will not deliver the results they desire.
People leave our training programs (and any good training program) informed but they do not leave transformed. True transformation takes place incrementally, over time as the concepts from the training are implemented – and more importantly, coached. To ensure you get the best return on your investment in training, keep the following three steps in mind:
Make sure senior leadership is involved – Any important training initiative should have an executive sponsor who understands and supports why the investment in training is being made and how success will be measured. That person should be an internal champion for the training and the business objective for the training should directly support the organization's overall business goals (making money, saving money or managing risk). Everyone involved in developing the training, internally and externally, should understand that link. Too often, we have seen excellent training programs die on the vine because of a lack of executive sponsorship and/or an understanding of how the training initiative is expected to impact business objectives.
Keep senior management involved – Senior leadership needs to do more than just lend their name to the training initiative. They play a key role before, during and after the training initiative and need to understand and embrace that role. Before the training, clarity and communication are essential -- ensuring everyone understands why the training is being offered and what will be expected of them. During the training, their role is to create an environment where participants are free to focus on the training. (Sounds obvious but we have had senior leaders pull participants out of training sessions to work on simple administrative tasks.) After the training, their role should be focused on adoption and measurement -- following up with management to ask about progress against the behavior change – holding managers of those trained accountable for the oversight essential to tracking and supporting adoption the new behaviors.
Understand the importance of and make a commitment to sustainability – This isn’t new information. Anyone involved in learning and development for the past decade understands that training events alone will not bring about sustained change. Sustainability comes in various forms. While many providers charge for reinforcement, we build sustainability into each of our training solutions -- it's that important. There is absolutely no point in offering training if you do not plan to reinforce it. Beyond any technical or team reinforcement options you choose to implement, the most effective form of sustainability is coaching. Without question, coaching to reinforce the concepts introduced in the training has the most direct impact on sustainability – and ultimately on performance. Training should not be viewed as a replacement for developmental coaching – and yet, unfortunately, many organizations view training as essentially outsourcing coaching responsibility. They are entirely different things. Data from the Sales Executive Council (now CEB) supports that Sales Reps who receive three-plus hours of coaching per month achieve, on average, 107% of quota. Sales Reps who receive little or no coaching achieve, on average, 88% of their quota. That doesn't just apply to salespeople -- anecdotally, we have seen coaching have a similar impact regardless of who is being coached.
The next time you launch a training initiative, in order to get the greatest return on your investment and ensure the training impacts your business objectives, keep these three things in mind. When you are working with Sphere International, we'll guide you through this process.
Sphere is a performance improvement firm that has been improving leadership, sales and communications performance for more than 20 years. We work with Fortune 500 and FTSE 1000 organizations globally across multiple industries helping tens of thousands of professionals at every level in those organizations enhance their performance.
We do that by helping you determine what is working well with your organization, your teams and your people right now, while at the same time, with laser focus, helping you identify key areas for improvement. We then work with your leadership team and individual contributors and/or teams to help them leverage their strengths and refine their areas for improvement through incremental change. It is at once an individual and a holistic approach to defining and inspiring you to achieve your next level of excellence. You can reach us at www.sphereintl.com.