Thursday, April 1, 2010

Getting more bang for your training $

Did your company invest big bucks in sending you to expensive leadership/productivity training?

Wonderful! That certainly shows a commitment on their part to invest in you.

Here’s the catch; was there any kind of follow up once you got back to the office to ensure that you applied the techniques you learned?

A friend of mine had an experience like this that was very eye-opening and inspired me to share some insights on this all-too frequent situation. Her company sent all their top level employees- department managers & Executive staff- to leadership and productivity training.

By all reports, the training was excellent. The attendees learned a lot of effective communication, teamwork, and leadership techniques by working through series of enlightening processes. The training was very eye opening, and had just about everyone looking at themselves and their co-workers in a new light afterwards. Everyone was energized and excited about what they had been through, and all involved were eager to share their experiences and apply what they had learned. My friend’s company organized regular meetings for the training graduates to attend to share their experiences and discuss what was learned. As new employees went through the training they would attend the meetings and share their experiences.

At first the meetings were very well attended as the enthusiasm and buzz from the new experience resonated throughout those invited to the training. However, information about the training was not very well explained, even to the attendees. Most were simply told they were required to attend a training course, given travel information, and little else to go on. If they asked questions they were told that "all would be made clear at the proper time", which was apparently a catch phrase used during the training itself.

Evidently, the nature and purpose of the training was also not made clear to the employees not invited to attend, and those not invited quickly started grumbling about the "exclusive" new club. Rumors started spreading.

The principles of the training, which were excellent (from what I am told) were never followed up on when the staff returned to work, other than the weekly meetings. There were no directives from management as to how the staff was expected to apply the training in any specific way as it related to the company. Attendance at the meetings began to fall off as pot lucks and holiday parties took the place of discussing the training principles and its transformative effect on the attendees.

My friend tells me the training was literally life-changing for her, and she’s applying many of the principles in her personal life and at home. But there was never any direction as to how the staff was expected to apply the training to the workplace.

Did the company get a very good return on their training budget investment?
Has this happened at your company?

I've been lucky enough to be included in similar training programs at my job, and I'm happy to say we've maximized our return on that investment. One method we used was brainstorming the challenges facing our company as a group. Then, using the principles from the training, break up into small teams (4-5 people at most) and assign each team 1 or 2 of the problems and have them come up with solutions. The small teams are less intimidating than the large group, and we came up with more great new ideas and solutions than we ever expected. That's just one way to approach applying training to the workplace in a real and practical way.

When investing in your team through any kind of training, be sure to get the best return on your investment by ensuring your goals are clear to all involved.

1. Clearly communicate the nature of the training as much as possible prior to sending your staff to the training.

2. Clearly communicate the goal of sending your staff to the training.

3. Clearly communicate how you expect the training to be applied at the workplace.

4. Set your staff up for success by following up upon their return- ask them how they will apply what they learned to the workplace. Hold them accountable to apply the knowledge and techniques learned.

5. Educate the staff NOT attending the training as to the nature and intent of the program. Have the attendees become your own personal teaching staff, and have them pass their new knowledge on to the rest of the team. Make the training your own, and use it to bring the team together, not divide them.

As you see, clear communication is the biggest part of the battle when it comes to getting more bang for your training bucks.

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