Every year billions of dollars are spent in upskilling staff within organizations, but are they truly getting the maximum bang for their buck? Whether it’s training companies touting for business or decision makers questioning return on investment, professional development remains one of those illusive intangibles yet, intuitively, everybody recognizes the need.
When deciding on a form of professional development there are many considerations to be made, the most obvious being who requires the training. But let’s assume that organizations get this right though I have had classes where half the people didn’t want to be there and the other half didn’t know why they were there. The next criteria is who to select to deliver the training. Can it be done internally or do you need to go to some external resource? If is the latter, check out references and make sure that the training organization is a fit for yours. Also ask about delivery and accommodating varying learning styles. Finally, who will the teachers be and how relatable will they be to the people attending the training?
The final criteria is often the one overlooked yet most important relative to the ROI. When considering the purpose of training, the number one reason has to be that it affects positive change within an organization. This could be new knowledge to become more productive or maybe improved behaviors to enhance leadership effectiveness or teamwork. However in order to affect these changes people must get an opportunity to “Practice, Practice, Practice”, as this is the essential element towards the integration of learning. What does practice mean? It’s about walking before you run, trying new things where failing is totally acceptable and, ultimately, it’s about being held accountable to ensuring that the training does not end in the classroom.
One of the most effective and efficient means for making this happen is to provide post classroom coaching on a group or individual basis. This will facilitate a check in on progress but, most importantly, it will convey to the training participants the expectation of translating the learning into real world application. If you do not use newly acquired skills, you will very quickly forget them. If the environment is not created for the appropriate integration, then it becomes a big waste of time and money. Meaningful training is about enlightenment (learning) and application (integration)
At a large client organization where we are teaching coaching skills to HR staff, we also surveyed the recipients of coaching from these trainees. Not alone are we getting feedback on its effectiveness but, equally important, it’s conveying an absolute expectation that you must also practice what has been learned. So as you consider your next professional development experience, be sure to ask how the program will assist with the integration of the learning, before you waste all that time and money.