Starting around July every year, training departments begin receiving e-mails and phone calls around the same topic:
“Such-and-such course is on my annual plan, and I need to get signed up.”
This should remind us of a statistic from the British consulting firm Lane4:
At least 80% of all corporate training cannot be linked back to any performance improvement, let alone a business-related improvement resulting in Return on Investment.
Considering that over $134 Billion is spent annually, that’s a staggering implication.
The Secret Formula
However, there is a solution. Consider this equation:
ET + LR = BC –> ROI
It means Effective Training (ET) and Leadership Reinforcement (LR) result in Changed Behavior (BC), which leads to Return on Investment (ROI).
The corollary is also true: Effective Training (or development) without Leadership Reinforcement will NOT result in Changed Behavior or ROI.
Ideally, the equation would read: ET + IA = BC –> ROI, where IA stood for “Individual Application”.
In other words, if people came back from training, eager to apply the new techniques they learned (and actually did it!), effective training (or development) might be all that was needed.
Instead, isn’t this the more common post-training response:
Back from 2 or 3 days away, people realize they’ve got 90 or 100 e-mails to wade through, two dozen voicemails, and they’re behind! They glance wistfully at the training notebook, swearing to look at it “as soon as things calm down a little,” and up on the shelf it goes, never to be seen again.
Honestly, isn’t that what most post-training becomes?
The evidence says this is common for over 80% of us who go to offsite training. Now you can readily avoid some of this burden if you engage a learning management software system from Halogen because you have the systems in house and integrated into your work/learning process.
But for those who leave for offsite training and come back to work, you need to enact a plan of your own to make the training pay off.
Two Conversations and a Follow Up Plan
So how can we change it?
Knowing that the “IA” – by itself – is unrealistic. As leaders. we must provide the “LR”.
One question we need to look at then is what exactly makes up “leadership reinforcement.” Leadership Reinforcement, at its essence, consists of three things: two conversations and an accountability plan.
Conversation Number 1
The first conversation should be an outgrowth of the annual plan. What training or development actions did you agree upon with the person? Assuming that the plan itself is effective, within a week or two before the person attends a training course or developmental opportunity, you need to have a conversation.
This talk should initially:
- Discuss the developmental issues with the person
- Agree why you want them to attend the training in the first place
- Express your expectations for what you want them to get out of the training
- Tell them to what they should pay particular attention
- Discuss their reaction and expectations
- Convey how you expect their behavior to change when they return.
In other words, if you want a particular output, you must ensure that the inputs are correct.
The bottom line, however, is this: When your employees leave to attend training, they must know precisely what your joint expectations are, what to pay particular attention to, and they should begin thinking – during training – about how they’ll apply it.
In this way your employees will be more focused when they attend training or participate in developmental activities. They’ll be more engaged, listening and watching more intently, asking better questions, doing their homework, and making sure they’ll meet your joint expectations. People at training courses would be there for a purpose (one they understood and agreed with.)
Everybody wins in those situations.
Conversation Number 2
The second conversation happens once the employee gets back.
- You should ask them to identify the “Big Rocks” that they got from the training.
- What were the major impacts they received?
- What are they going to do about them?
- Specifically, how are they going to perform their job differently than before they went away?
- Have this conversation in detail
- Make notes
- Set dates for specific accomplishments
- Then follow up!
If Action A was to be completed by September 15, check in with them on the 15th (not the 16th) to see how they did. Hold their feet to the fire, closely verify the details. Check randomly after that date, but make sure the committed actions or changes are truly completed, and implemented to your satisfaction. Praise their efforts and reward their accomplishments. Don’t allow their completed commitments to pass in ignored or overlooked silence.
This silence is deafening in the corporate world.
This reinforcement method is a golden opportunity to do several things.
- It improves your people’s performance (and the business performance of your team) and makes them more productive employees.
- Praise and feedback are the greatest motivators there are
- Motivated employees have higher morale and productivity
- Satisfied people stay, so your attrition, recruiting, and related costs are lower
- Higher morale and productivity brings improved business results
I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any downside to “Leadership Reinforcement.”
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