Almost every company's Learning and Development team is grappling with reduced or tight training budgets on the one hand, and increasing demand for training on the other. In attempting to deal with this challenge, L&D teams should be asking "How effectively are we using our current training budget?", or more pointedly, "how much of our training spend is being burned?".
Outlined below are the main areas in which organisations' training investment is being wasted:
1. Misdiagnosis of development need The most obvious way to burn the training budget is to train a person in an area that isn't a development need.
This could happen by simply putting everyone in a team or department through a training program without any assessment of individual competency (the sheep dip) and therefore training need.
It can also come about due to a misdiagnosis of an apparent development need. For example, an employee is not completing their assigned work in a timely manner so their manager enlists them in a time management training course. However, if the main reason for not completing the work on time is something else such as a lack of understanding of the work itself, then they are being trained in the wrong area. This both burns the training budget and leaves the development need unaddressed.
2. Inappropriate development solution applied Despite a strong push by L&D professionals to have people think broadly about development channels and actions, the pervasive and default mindset of many managers and employees is to address a development need with a training course.
Sending someone on a training course is often seen as a quick and easy solution and that the person will magically return from the course improved and fully capable in the area of development need. Sometimes managers even use a training course to avoid a difficult conversation with a team member (i.e. if I enrol a 'difficult' team member in a leadership program that will 'fix' the issues).
A training course may often not be the best or only solution to address a development need - on the job experience, coaching, self directed learning and other more informal methods should be drawn upon more often than formal training. How many of us have been on a training program and several months later have forgotten much of the content and applied very little? In such instances, perhaps the wrong development solution was utilised.
3. Little or no preparation of or by the participant for the training If your workshop participants can't clearly articulate why they are there and if the majority aren't excited and raring to go, then your organisation has some significant L&D problems.
Simply sending a participant a calendar entry for a training course without any prior or further discussion is simply not good enough. Too many managers don't fulfil their critical role in setting context for their team member's attendance and have a discussion that results in a clear and shared view of their learning objectives for the program. This is such a critical step in engaging the participant in the learning and linking it to their current role requirements and/or career development. Note to managers - this is your accountability - not L&D's.
4. Learner not held accountable for acquiring and applying the learning This follows on nicely from point 3. What accountability mechanisms are in place in your organisation for employees acquiring and applying learning from training courses? In many organisations there is little or none and it relies solely on a person having a people focused leader as their manager.
Employees whose manager takes an active interest in their learning before, during and after a training program will feel much more accountable for maximising the time and money invested in their training. The partnership with their manager will also help ensure relevant opportunities are available for them to apply their new knowledge on the job post-workshop, therefore reinforcing the learning.
In organisations with a strong learning culture you won't have people turning up to training as conscripts and coasting through the workshop and just enjoying the cooked lunches - they will be actively engaged and making the most of the opportunity both during and well beyond the training.
5. Little or no measurement of training outcomes If your organisation uses workshop feedback/evaluation forms (happy sheets) as the primary or only measure of training effectiveness then there is large scope for improvement. While workshop evaluations are informative at a very base level, (i.e. self reported satisfaction with the program), they provide very little data about the acquisition of capability and its application in the workplace - which is ultimately where benefit from the training investment is derived.
Follow up is required at various intervals to measure the benefits of the program, and most importantly, to reinforce and further support the participant's application of the learning. The data collection can and should be both quantitative and qualitative to get valid perspective on the real world impact of the training.
Participants who know that there will be some form of assessment or follow up of their learning and application of it are much more likely to be focused learners. In far too many training programs the only person in the room who is evaluated is the facilitator ...
The Wrap So is your organisation burning its precious training budget? If so, the good news is that there are a lot of relatively simple remedial steps that can be implemented to reduce this wastage. By preventing training waste your L&D team can find those critical extra resources that can really add value to the organisation and its people.