Training can deliver a high return on investment, but it can also drain away precious resources. So how do you avoid pouring your training budget down the drain?
Over the years I have seen so much money, time and effort wasted on training, and I don’t mean because of poor content and delivery. Even the best, most inspiring trainers can’t achieve great results, when training suffers from this totally avoidable, but frequently ignored, mistake.
Here it is: The huge mistake training buyers make (that could be costing your business £1000s in lost ROI) is to assume that the value of training is all about what’s delivered in the classroom.
The truth is, maximising value depends on a process that starts way before the training is delivered and does not end until well afterwards.
Why? Quite simply, it’s not training that ultimately delivers the return on your investment, it’s learning.
The assumption that what training does for your business is down to the discrete “training” activity that begins and ends in the training room is the best way to minimise the learning and, waste your time and the business’s money. Instead, you need to consider what makes a successful training process.
The Training Process: Investing in Success
In order to maximise the learning achieved from training (and reap the extensive benefits possible) businesses must go through a number of vital stages that involve the set-up, delivery and follow-up to the actual training delivery.
I’ve identified 7 stages (outlined below) that are vital to maximise value from any training delivered in your business.
Each one of these will stop you pouring £1,000s down the drain, and wasting the time and energy of everyone involved.
In this article, I have kept the points brief to give you an idea of what needs to be considered. I will be expanding on all of these in forthcoming articles.
The 7 Stages of a Successful Training Process
1) Get a clear idea of what successful training would be
I know that the effectiveness of training is notoriously difficult to measure, but you must achieve a clear idea of what success will look like before any programme of training is undertaken.
For compliance related training this is easier to do, having individuals adequately complete the course is a success. For professional qualifications, the fact that delegates pass exams or tests measures one kind of success. But even so, what about the desired benefits to your business?
For soft skills, defining success is trickier still, but just as important. Improved performance? Better communication? More confident managers? How would you know that success has been achieved? Who decides?
(Which leads us on to stage 2…)
2) Decide and agree whose project this is and who is responsible for success
Identifying a training need, and organising the delivery, will often be carried out by two different teams. Perhaps an operations manager wants their team to learn some particular new skills. They will approach the Learning & Development or Human Recourses team to organise the training.
But who has responsibility for the overall success of the training? And will success be the same for both teams? I would suggest that frequently success is different. For L&D and HR success could be to have the training delivered and receive positive feedback from the delegates, while for operations they want to see higher skills levels in their team going forward.
So, responsibility for overall success must be decided and agreed. Someone has to get agreement on the outcomes for each team and make sure they are aligned. Who?
3) Obtain buy-in from senior managers
Having decided that training is required, what success would look like and who is responsible, obtaining senior management buy-in is crucial to success. Without this the training can so easily be perceived as just a tick-box exercise, and delegates feel they are being “processed” without any real value to them or the business. Staff can become very cynical if training seems to be taking place in a vacuum, without the support and sponsorship of “management”.
Having senior managers openly discussing the training by talking about it in team meetings for example, can provide the context and explain the value to the organisation of investing in these specific skills.
4) Understand and Promote the importance of line-managers
Line managers are perhaps the most important people in ensuring that the value of training is maximised. Without their contribution, again individuals feel “processed” and don’t get the full benefit of the training. Or worse, see the training as pointless.
However, line managers are seldom aware of their responsibilities or role in ensuring successful training. Having established the need, they assume that HR is responsible for the success of the training. This must be addressed and the line-managers brought into the loop in two ways:
- As part of the training set-up, line managers are best placed to
- identify the training needs within their team, and
- effectively communicate this, so participants experience training as directly affecting the outcomes they can deliver for their department, and themselves
- Post training-delivery, line managers are able to provide relevant work to embed the training, or set aside time to provide coaching support. They are also well placed to give an evaluation of the training because they will see the changes in their team member’s performance, behaviour, skills etc.
(There will be more discussion of the “how-to” detail of each of these stages in forthcoming articles. Stay tuned.)
5) Know how to get the delegates fully engaged
Delegates need to know why they are going on the course, and, what is expected of them afterwards – i.e. share the vision of success. Time and again this step is skipped. Delegates are “put” on a course, they don’t understand fully why they are there, how the training fits with their or the organisation’s development, what is expected of them. This creates a feeling of disengagement and being part of a tick-box exercise.
L&D, HR, senior management and line managers all need to play their part in explaining the training and how it fits in with the individual’s and the organisation’s goals. And this communication should not be done by e-mail alone!
6) Take the opportunity to get feedback from the trainer
Trainers are experts in their field, and when they are external providers, they can provide valuable insights and feedback to the business.
Delegates will often talk more openly with external providers, I find this especially happens with stress management training. While maintaining individual confidentiality, I am able to comment on further training needs, trends, requests, mood, and ideas for improving communication and performance.
This is hugely valuable to businesses. Yet most forget, or don’t bother to follow-up in this way.
7) Get the right venue
This may seem a minor point, but believe me it is really important to delegates. The training venue is seen as a reflection on how the business values the delegates and the training. Being stuck in a cramped, dark, uninspiring space is perceived as “the business doesn’t care about us”.
Also refreshments (or lack of) create a huge amount of comment in training sessions! Again, if these are missing (and I haven’t seen biscuits in the public sector for years now) it makes delegates feel unvalued. (And hence unmotivated, unengaged, even cynical. All of which negatively impacts your ROI.)
So for the sake of £20, get decent refreshments and make the delegates feel that you value them and the process of training.
More Help and Information on the 7 Stages of the Training Success Process
Getting each of these steps right will maximise your training budget. You will get great value for money, and business performance will certainly improve.
Some of these steps may sound time consuming, and difficult to manage when there are so many other projects to deal with. Yet without them, you may as well just pour your budget down the drain. CLAssocates can help by providing tools, facilitation, advice and consultancy to enable you to develop and/or implement the Training Success Process in your business.
For example, we can facilitate meetings with the main stakeholders, make sure success is identified and establish responsibility. We can provide pro-formas and checklists to enable the communication between senior management, line managers and delegates.
And as I said earlier, I’ll be covering each stage outlined above in more detail in later articles, so make sure you are subscribed to my newsletter, and come back soon to read more.