Getting the Most From Training

A work culture that places emphasis on learning and development affects employee engagement and loyalty more than a focus on work/life balance, benefits, and/or complimentary food and beverages. Incredibly, organizations with a focus on development spend on average only .2 percent more on their developmental budget than those without that focus. How is that possible? Many organizations provide training, but do little to support employees pre- and post-training. When this occurs, the information learned in training is less likely to be retained and transferred back to the day-to-day work setting. Conversely, organizations that truly support learning and development via philosophy, culture, strategy, and structure realize the return on investment (ROI) from training and experience more engagement and loyalty from employees. With all of this in mind, how might an organization go about creating or emphasizing this competitive advantage?

First, consider the philosophy. Is employee development viewed as an expense or an investment? When employers see development as an expense, it manifests as a fear of providing training to employees, due to the possibility they could leave after the business incurs the expense of the training. But organizations that approach employee development as an investment see employees as a valuable asset that should be appreciating rather than depreciating.

Next, review the culture of the organization. A culture that has a true development focus includes not only training programs, but also a wide range of developmental opportunities for all employees within the organization. In addition to training, a well-rounded employee development strategy includes elements such as on-the-job application opportunities, coaching, mentoring, cross-training, job-shadowing, regular feedback, 360 evaluations, and career planning.

Additionally, an examination of the organization’s strategy is necessary. In order to have a strategy that truly supports employee development, employee development plans must be aligned with and based on the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic drivers. Also, it is important that managers are promoting and evaluating the same knowledge, skills, abilities, and values that are taught and learned in training. In addition, understanding the expectations of both internal and external stakeholders and crafting a training program which meets their expectations is an essential element of strategic alignment.

Finally, it is important to consider the structure for supporting training and development. Here are a few tips and strategies to keep in mind when designing or re-evaluating the structure of training and development programs:

  • In order for adult learners to exert effort in learning new skills, they must experience the feeling that the information obtained in the training is directly relevant and useful to them.
  • Information obtained in training should be applied as soon as possible following the training. Studies show that when adult learners apply learnings obtained during training within two weeks following the training, learned material is roughly 20 percent more likely to be retained and used over time.
  • When supervisors engage with employees about learning objectives both pre- and post-learning, there is a 60 percent increase in effectiveness of training. Support prior to a training may include encouraging employees to think about where there are gaps in their knowledge, skills, and abilities and what they expect to learn via training to help bridge those gaps. Support following a training might entail follow-up with employees to determine how to reinforce and model the knowledge, skills, and abilities learned and practiced in training.
  • As with any strategic initiative, evaluation, both qualitative and quantitative, is necessary to determine where there are opportunities for further improvement to training and development programs already in place.

Organizations in the United States spend roughly $90 billion on training each year. In order to be among the organizations that make the most of this costly investment, it is imperative to have infrastructure in place to support training.