Five steps to better training outcomes

Discussion
Jun 10, 2015

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Getting Personal About Business, the blog of Zahn Consulting, LLC.

One sure way to get managers and employees to roll their eyes and all but wish for a short-term illness is to announce that they are to attend or participate in a company-sponsored training session. As someone who makes his living through training and employee development initiatives, I wince each time I see it happen. Can my work be viewed as so irrelevant that people would rather be sick than partake?

With the best of intentions, however, an unrealistic set of expectations often governs these efforts. Among the misfires:

  • Misalignment between the intentions of employee development efforts and execution.
  • A mistaken belief by HR leaders that managers will provide good development plans and opportunities for their subordinates.
  • An assumption that employees can and will assume responsibility for their own development.

Training session

Here are five suggestions for melding the desired outcomes with what is practical and feasible:





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  1. Reduce expectations from grandiose "boil the ocean" type endeavors to more tactical and manageable ones.
  2. Allow managers to set developmental goals rather than employees. They are in a better position to assess needs and to allocate resources against those needs.
  3. Use experience rather than exposure, lecture, demonstration or observation of others to develop employees. Experience allows the employee to recognize the behavior in the context in which it is performed.
  4. Make development plans part of the performance appraisal process. Whereas most employee reviews occur once a year and may allude to things to work on in the coming year, the reality for many is that it is rarely referenced again and has no "teeth" or consequences if not met (for either manager or employee).
  5. Integrate accountability for managers into the process. If managers are evaluated (compensation impacts, promotion opportunities, ratings, etc.) on their development efforts and successes, they will receive far more time and attention than if viewed as a "nice to do" efforts. If managers claim that they have no time to do this for all their employees, have them at least do it for those with the highest potential.

 

Why are so many employee training sessions ineffective? What would you add to the suggestions in the article on how to drive better outcomes?

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Braintrust
"Employment training is a black hole because most HR directors are long on theory — and regulation — and low on practicality. How to build a better mousetrap? Let’s start with rethinking motivation."
"Here is my own list which in some case differs from the list in this post. The key is to develop a culture that focuses on continual growth and employee development. Make it part of the lifeblood of the company. Build a hiring system that hires people who have a drive and want to learn and grow."

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12 Comments on "Five steps to better training outcomes"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Employment training is a black hole because most HR directors are long on theory — and regulation — and low on practicality.

How to build a better mousetrap? Let’s start with rethinking motivation. HR folk can tell each other that money isn’t a motivator all day long but the fact is most people are working for a paycheck and what passes for security in these troubled times.

Then there’s the issue of consistency. Too many organizations have one theoretical rule for employees and quite another for management.

Finally, try speaking English. So much training is clouded in developmentalese, the worst form of corporate speak.

Talking to people in language they can understand about what they need to do to get more of what is important to them (not necessarily the same thing as what is important to you) is a great first step toward getting the behavior you want.

Now, if you could eliminate organizational hypocrisy once and for all, you really might be on to something.

Tony Orlando
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

To me the one-size-fits-all training sessions can be incredibly boring, especially for the motivated employee who already gets it. Yes a standard set of work habits must be implemented for everyone, but I like to individually deal with an employee who needs help or training in specific areas of my store. This is quite difficult with large firms, and thus you have the obligatory meetings that produce mixed results.

Break up the meeting into sub-groups of workers who need upgrades on the skills they provide for the company, with a supervisor who is trained to help them learn the skills they need specifically tailored to their jobs. This would provide better results and hone in on the skills needed for their respective duties. Also make sure the person in charge of the sub-group does not condescend to them, and can actually provided an uplifting way of engaging the employees in the learning process, which is a skill all of us who lead people must have.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Many employee training sessions are ineffective because they are often organized events rather than embedded standard operating procedures. Training should be ingrained in the expectations of what is defined as the brand. Small expectations and lessons learned everyday will reap far more rewards than organized events. If employees are taught what is expected from them in order to meet the standards of the brand on a daily basis, the training will, and should, be an embedded function across all departments and customer touchpoints.

Successful employee training must be accompanied by empowering those employees to do the right thing for your customers. If they’re not empowered and rewarded to respond to the customer, no amount of training will stick.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

As a retail sales trainer for some of the best brands around, the answers are more grey than black and white. Wall Street pressures for numbers and cutting costs, hiring low-wage workers deemed “disposable” by many, lack of effective communication, the rush to shiny object technology and a general feeling that “anyone can work retail.”

It all starts from the top. You either value training and put the naysayers who say that “if you train them they’ll only leave” in their places.

Training can affect every transaction, unlike marketing like Santa Claus and doling out discounts to, in effect, pay customers to come to your brick-and-mortar location.

Roger Saunders
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Ongoing training and development has to start at the top of the organization and department. Buy-in from those executives that training is an important part of motivating, building and supporting associates is essential.

In larger organizations, have a “go-to” training manager within the HR department (HR bridges all departments). In mid-size or smaller companies, use outside sources — universities, conferences, associations or online learning to support needs.

Ask department heads to make it part of their tactical plans, such as five training days per year for each associate, One day of training per quarter, 15 minutes of development effort in the course of a weekly meeting.

The quality of our work is only impacted by the ongoing development to which all associates should have exposure.

Shep Hyken
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Two comments:

  1. Training should be part of the culture. It’s not something you do every so often. It’s something you do on an ongoing, regular basis.
  2. Leadership needs to be involved. They need to show their enthusiasm for the training as well as be seen participating in the training. One of our clients engaged us to provide six days of customer service training for six different audiences. The executive in charge actually attended all six days. Yes he sat in the back and was multitasking, but he at the same time was showing his employees that he cared enough to show up himself.
Mel Kleiman
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Here is my own list which in some case differs from the list in this post.

  1. The key is to develop a culture that focuses on continual growth and employee development. Make it part of the lifeblood of the company.
  2. Build a hiring system that hires people who have a drive and want to learn and grow.
  3. Make training available on an as-needed and as-wanted basis.
  4. Do training in small bites so people can focus on one thing that they have learned at a time and adapted to using the training.
  5. Make people responsible for their own development.

A couple of my clients offer a benefit of $500 a year to every employee to take some kind of self development/training program. It does not matter what they do. It could be taking a yoga class or a program to learn a foreign language. We have turned this into an interviewing question. If you had $500 to spend on a self development program, how would you spend the money?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Unfortunately these sessions are seen as an interruption to their schedule. The employees become rote in what they do on a daily basis. Beside that, who can teach them what they already know (LOL)? We have to become better communicators on what these training sessions are for and be ready to tell them the answer to WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Why is training ineffective? Several reasons, however, I’d say the first thing to come to mind is the lack of followthrough and followup with the staff. Training needs to be given in “edible” chunks to be absorbed. From there, management needs to follow up and coach in a natural, ongoing manner. If the training content and materials are appropriate (not always easy to do, by the way), then the followthrough is the next critical step.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Who initiates the idea for training? Why? Do the people hiring the trainer keep the goal and business objective in mind during the hiring process? Does the trainer or training organization learn enough about the goal and business objective? Are the managers involved in implementing the training involved in the process? Do they receive the necessary tools to actually ensure that the training is incorporated into business activity?

There are so many places where the process breaks down and so many disconnects within organizations that the hurdle for training to be effective is extremely high.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

I am keenly aware of company training classes that are filled with employees that do not want to be there, as in the class, the company or both. We could talk forever about the ways this apathy was brought about and how it is perpetuated with no sign of a fix for all to use.

Problems like these need to be reduced through a preemptive approach as in pre screening employees and applicants for their aptitude and career path wants and aspirations. This will not reduce the number of duds we have in the market and/or the company, but it will show the company where the best opportunities for return on this investment are. Since a loyal and trainable employee is so important to a company’s growth, the use of third party auditors to evaluate the candidates and the training courses might be considered in the same light as with finances.

What is for sure is that what most companies are doing stunts growth and profitability at the very least, and this is overdue for correction.

Sue Nicholls
Guest
Sue Nicholls
6 years 4 months ago
Great points here. The best in class approach that we have found is to have the training tied in with individuals’ role expectations and development plans through HR and they in turn work with the managers to ensure accountability and involvement in the training. Managers who take the training with their team and are willing to make changes to their approaches and processes based on the team’s overall learnings and feedback will most likely have great success in the training program. Scheduling the time for your team to complete their training (after all — they are going to get better at their jobs if they get properly trained, so how can it not be a priority?). If it’s online or blended learning, have a start and complete date so that it’s not just “when you have a chance to finish the training.” Incorporate group discussions for relevancy and to determine “so what does this mean for our business and what can we do more effectively based on the learnings?” Create an action plan of what the… Read more »
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Braintrust
"Employment training is a black hole because most HR directors are long on theory — and regulation — and low on practicality. How to build a better mousetrap? Let’s start with rethinking motivation."
"Here is my own list which in some case differs from the list in this post. The key is to develop a culture that focuses on continual growth and employee development. Make it part of the lifeblood of the company. Build a hiring system that hires people who have a drive and want to learn and grow."

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