Don't Waste Your Money On Training

Bold statement, I know. But after twenty years in the corporate training game, I can say with confidence that training without reinforcement is a waste of time and money.

Here's a familiar story. It goes something like this: "We did all this management training, rented hotel conference rooms, brought in lunch, took people away from their jobs, and we don't really see a difference."

There are a few reasons for this and all of them are fixable.

1) The only result that was measured was the immediate reaction of the participants. It has been called a "smile sheet" - the survey at the end of the training to ask how people liked it, what they would have liked to be different, do they think they'll use it, etc. This isn't all that useful other than to see how people felt about the facilitator. 

2) The training isn't supported in practice by the culture or the leadership. I can teach people all day long how to be effective managers, but if the organization sees them as individual contributors with management titles, it doesn't matter what the participants take away. When they try to use it, the culture will reject it and people will give up.

3) There is no reinforcement. Assuming leadership supports the effort to develop people managers, the training can be the best thing since dark chocolate but without a system to keep the focus on implementing and debriefing the skills, people tend to revert to their comfort zone of behaviors.

So how do you get the return on your training and development dollars?

Some training is required by state and federal laws, so obviously do those. But when you're putting into place skills training and development, do the work on the front and back ends:

1) Specifically define the change you want to see. For example, "All people managers will have practices in place and use them consistently, resulting in staff receiving no-surprise reviews and reporting that they have the tools and support they need to excel in their jobs." Sometimes I see faux goals that sound more like "Take that training by that date." That's a step without a defined outcome. 

2) Gain alignment with the necessary stakeholders on the content to be taught and the desired outcomes, and secure their support for the change. Even better, have them participate. 

3) Here's the biggy: Insist on a reinforcement component. After the training event each participant should meet with someone to set goals to actually implement what they learned. The someone could be a coach, the facilitator, an HR partner, or in-house training and development people. After the participant has had a few weeks to implement the plan, they should have at least one follow up meeting with the someone, to review progress, talk about problems, and fine tune their efforts. Then the new practices should become part of their work plan.

If you want it to stick, you have to help it stick. Reinforcement is the way.


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