Are you wasting a lot of money on workplace learning and development? You’re not alone.
Let’s say you have a team of project managers who don’t work as efficiently as you want them to. They miss deadlines, they’re not turning in their reports, and both your departments and your clients complain about your project management team’s lack of communication skills.
So what do you do? You pay for training. And the results you’re getting in return? Negligible. And you’re not the only one.
According to a survey conducted by Workplace Trends, of the 39% of companies offering professional development programs, only 15% of employees working in those companies believed the programs were effective. Some experts even say that 90% of the skills learned from training are usually lost by the end of the year.
Companies worldwide are spending—or more accurately, wasting—thousands of dollars annually on workplace learning and development per employee.
Think about it: You’re losing money in the name of benefiting your employees who will lose these skills eventually over time.
Why aren’t my employees benefiting from training?
Many CEOs think that enrolling their employees in a corporate training program is all they need to do to make company processes run smoother, but they’re forgetting these four crucial elements to a successful training event: the leaders’ active involvement, the content of the training, the trainers themselves, and the employees’ mindsets.
Of course there are other factors that could be negatively affecting your employees’ professional development, but it’s these four things that HR managers and business owners tend to overlook.
Aside from these four elements, business owners also need to understand that training is a long, ongoing process that begins before the start of training, and continues on even after it ends.
This includes being a supportive leader, spotting toxic mindsets, and making sure your employees are in the safe hands of an expert trainer.
The four factors that contribute to a successful training experience
As mentioned earlier, there are four elements that need to be at the forefront of your mind before enrolling your employees in a corporate training event. If your employees aren’t getting the most out of the training programs, you can start by investigating one of these four factors or elements.
Element #1: The Training
First, assess your team’s range of experience
Usually, the reason why employees don’t benefit from training is because of the varying levels of experience.
It isn’t unusual for to have a team of employees with varying levels of work experience, so it’s important the training content falls on a spectrum of a wide range of expertise.
This will also help you identify exactly who needs training (e.g; entry-level employees, the whole department, etc) and what kind of training is needed instead of wasting time sending the whole team to a training event, when half of them probably don’t even need it.
Second, training needs to prioritize practice over theory
Anyone can read a book about something, make a powerpoint about it, and then give a course on that topic. Unfortunately, a lot of training programs out there are like this; they’re run by people simply passing on their knowledge rather than experts teaching how to take that knowledge and use it in the workplace.
Training needs to be hands-on and practical, and should revolve around applying knowledge rather than just acquiring it. It should be challenging, uncomfortable even—one that pushes employees out of their comfort zones and pushes them to face their weaknesses head on.
Going out of our comfort zones and challenging ourselves is how we truly grow, so always look for training programs that include a practical element.
Element #2: The Trainer
Theoretical competence v.s. practical competence
Remember we mentioned how easy it is to pick up a book about a topic, read it, and then give a presentation about it? If you want your employees to have a successful training experience, avoid those kinds of trainers.
Pick trainers who have the knowledge and credentials to qualify them to train your employees and have had experience with the material or skill they are teaching. You need someone who not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk.
Pick a trainer that knows how to engage an audience
Training shouldn’t be boring. If your employees believe it is, there’s something wrong. Sometimes, you’ll have wonderful content and a team that is more than willing to learn, but the trainers? They lack the right kind of energy or enthusiasm that help keep the class going.
To combat this, look for trainers who are also motivational speakers or have inspiring backstories for your employees to learn from. Find trainers who engage the audience by asking them questions or letting them find solutions and answers themselves—you need a trainer that lets the audience lead the course or program.
Element #3: The Trainees
If they don’t have the right attitude, they won’t learn a single thing.
If you find yourself at a training event—online or face-to-face—ask any employee there about the training they’re getting. You don’t always hear an employee say, “This is great! I’m learning a lot.” or “I can put this new skill into good use once I’m back in the office.” Instead, you hear things like, “This is a great break from work.” or “I have to be here because my boss told me to.”—sometimes, a trainees’ attitude could be what’s stopping them from reaping the full benefits of a training program.
Employees or team members have to be eager to learn about the topic or skill in question and be given clear expectations of the outcomes of the training. They have to be willing to apply these practices in the office and want to continue to build on their newly attained skills or knowledge.
In most cases, you’ll be faced with either one—or all—of these types of employees: the Change Averse (i.e. they’re afraid of change), the Know-it-all (i.e. they think everybody needs training except them), and the Sightseer (i.e. for them, training is just a nice, long break from real work).
No matter the type of employee you’re dealing with, you can handle this is by either giving your employees the hard, cold facts or taking a practical approach to this; show them an analysis of their performance, let them perform practical exercises where they have to apply the skills they lack, or have them participate in open discussions about changes that need to be made within the department.
Don’t just tell your employees why they need training, but demonstrate to them and show them why they need it.
Element #4: You or the Manager
Be willing to change
It might seem obvious that leaders should support their employees during the training process, but you’ll have to do more than just orchestrate the whole thing—you have to be willing to learn from your employees as well.
As a role model to your team members, you should also be willing to change alongside them. Sticking to your old way of running meetings, making decisions, and coaching others will just make your team members feel that you aren’t interested in the new skills they’ve developed, and will just fall back into their old, destructive behavior patterns.
After the training ends, schedule a meeting and have an open discussion with your employees about areas of improvement within the department. Brainstorm together on what needs to be done to make company processes more streamlined and agile.
Be open to learning from your team members and help them practice and apply what they learned from training.
Positive reinforcement and follow-up
It’s normal for human beings to want to stick to their old habits because it makes them feel safe—even if they take part in the best training program in the world, change will still feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and thus, intimidating.
Employees can sometimes be hesitant about applying new skills because they’re afraid their supervisors or team leaders won’t approve of the new changes. With a little encouragement from your side, team members will feel more comfortable and less reluctant to put what they’ve learned into practice.
Do a follow-up with your employees after training and schedule a team meeting to discuss what they’ve learned and what they’ll be doing differently from now on. And if need be, have executives more closely supervise their team members to help and guide them through certain tasks, which will ultimately help employees gain more confidence in their new skills.
Don’t train for training’s sake
It’s a waste of money to train your employees on things that are irrelevant to them, or enrolling them in a training program that’s neither up-to-date or led by an engaging speaker who knows his or her stuff.
Investing in a high-quality turning program can also be a waste of money if you don’t properly follow up with your employees on the skills they’ve learned.
For a successful training experience, you’ll have to nurture your employees before, during, and after training.