Training for ROI

Your staff needs training in a particular area, so you do some research to find a training and development course. You send your staff to the training and they come back enthused, assuring you that the class was enjoyable and that they were able to hone their skills through what they learned. The team has been trained, which results in increased productivity.

Does this scene sound familiar?

The unfortunate truth is that this is an all-too-common scenario plaguing many companies today. This is the typical approach many managers and companies adopt when it comes to training — identifying a skill deficiency, finding a course with the right learning objectives, sending the staff to take the course, and assuming everything is now corrected and on track.

In order to improve this practice, here are five steps in helping an organization successfully design and implement a training program delivering positive results:

1) Assessing real business needs:

The first step is determining precisely what gaps exist between the desired outcomes and the current state. Gaps can be determined by assessing the employees’ existing skill set and by analyzing the organizational practices that drive or impede new ways of doing things.

You can then review the existing training curriculum to measure the extent to which it delivers the necessary skills, knowledge and attitudes. Use this information to establish a baseline of today’s performance and identify the proper solutions.

Finally, consider selecting Key Performance Indicators that you would like to affect and, if possible, measure them before and after training to assess business impact. For example, a typical sales KPI is sales revenue.

2) Aligning the solution with the corporate strategy:

The solutions you choose must be aligned with the organization’s long-term strategic direction. In the case of a training solution, align training expenditures in direct proportion to corporate goals. Then, centralize accountability for producing high-impact training. Finally, solicit input from all levels of the organization on alignment and proper solutions.

3) Delivering active learning:

The best training solutions apply the principles of adult learning and respect the needs, limits and strengths of the participants.

Active learning requires three key elements:

– Experience: leadership courses should be highly customized and reflect experiences from outside the classroom while creating relevant simulated experiences within the classroom.

– Engagement: courses must be designed using a variety of teaching methods and media and be entertaining to prevent boredom.

– Evaluation: learners must have opportunities to give and receive feedback on their progress throughout the learning experience to maximize application and retention.

4) Holding people accountable:

The lack of post-training reinforcement is the primary reason for failing to achieve improved performance. You can increase accountability by making expectations and desired results clear to management and participants prior to training. You can also have managers attend the training with their reports to create a shared learning experience.

Mandating the use of the tools, skills and knowledge delivered in the training also aid in post-training reinforcement. Track results and provide prompt, specific feedback on participant performance after the training.

5) Analyze results and calculate ROI for a limited number of programs:

At a minimum, assessment should be conducted for all training to ensure participant satisfaction and that, at the conclusion of training, the new skills and information were delivered and understood. For complex skills or to guarantee compliance, a more in-depth analysis will measure retention and assess to what extent the new information and skills have been transferred from the classroom to the field. Perhaps you can select one or two high-profile, high-impact programs each year for a complete business impact and ROI analysis.

Regardless of the type of training your organization is looking to implement, following this five-step process could have a significant impact on your organization’s bottom line.

Transforming Learning Organizations with System Thinking

Many companies still struggle elevating the quality of their learning strategies. And with corporate commitment to reduce costs during economic uncertainties, corporate learning investments are being threatened.

Against the risk of succumbing to cost saving measures, learning organizations should be making a case for expanding their influence and more tightly integrating their learning capabilities with operations. Organizational design, knowledge management, peer collaboration and performance support need to be part of a learning mandate if learning teams are to create holistic learning systems. Learning strategies must enable people to learn as they go, at work, and not in sessions. They must focus on knowledge flow instead of developing and administering learning products. And they must correlate learning investment to business outcome – learning leadership must promote a new vision.

Moving 70 percent of all learning to on-the-job 

According to the American Society of Training and Development’s 2013 State of the Industry Report, corporations allocate approximately 70 percent of their learning investment to general skill building programs including executive development, managerial and supervisory skills, customer services, compliance, IT and systems training, interpersonal skills and orientation. Much of this training is non-contextual, delivered well ahead or far too late of when workers want or need it. The lack of perceived relevance, at the time of training, limits learning and so such instruction would be more effective if delivered at the point of need.

It reasons that courses, such as compliance, using trigger and response instructional strategies, evidenced by multiple-choice or right or wrong assessments, can be replaced by creating environments that provide appropriate prompts and feedback to drive behavior. Through strategies which include contextual help, help-desks, business process workflows, case-based apps and so on, companies can deliver on-the-job training that results in immediately actionable output. Task complexity, however, may warrant other types of support strategies. When activities are conducted within a wide range of conditions and without predictable outcomes, such as what might be expected from leadership, finance, legal and sales teams, then organizations would need to turn to workplace design that include knowledge management systems, collaborative platforms and cognitive tools so workers can identify a need, mine and connect information, make interpretations and construct appropriate solutions.

Embedding learning professionals within operating teams to grow performance consulting capabilities

Nelson Hall reports that executives increasingly look to shared services and outsourcing as means of controlling costs.  Such solutions, in themselves, reduce spend, but do not guarantee more operational output, sales, or innovation that learning and development departments strive to achieve. Further, centralized learning teams operate outside of operations; and dedicated line-of-business teams often contend with competing enterprise and operational reporting lines. The resulting perception is that learning remains disconnected from business.

Instead, a network of learning professionals should be distributed and embedded within operational teams to advocate for ideal learning conditions when business decisions are being made that affects the way people work. Some learning organizations already employ learning relationship managers to lessen the distinction between learning teams and their internal clients. However, all but learning executives should have direct reporting lines within the operational teams they serve, drawing on performance support standards established by a corporate community of practice.

Evaluate learning by measuring business outcomes

According to a joint report between the American Society of Training and Development and the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), less than half of organizations measure the return on learning investments and only one-third use business outcomes to inform the development of learning strategy. With the move to informal learning, assessing learning impact seems even more improbable.

Learning organizations can now include analytics, not just reporting, as part of their tool set. The World Economic Forum’s publication, Online Education, cites analytics as a significant advancement to improving training. Big data can be used to identify cause-and-effect patterns that will drive future design by attributing specific types of learning patterns to business results. For example, building a profile of top sales performers that includes what, when, where, how and why they use information and tools, helps learning teams engineer contextually situated learning environments, while driving system usage.

The current pressures placed on learning teams in the pursuit of competitive advantage will certainly drive learning transformation.

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