Jolene, a Personal Assistant at Hightech Inc, has just been on a Productivity Improvement training course. She is very excited about what she has learned, which includes Time Management, dealing with E-mail effectively and much more. She can’t wait to start applying some of the new skills and ideas she has learned into practice.
On her return to the office, she has to play “catch-up” on the work and e-mails that have piled up in her absence: she finds this frustrating because she is so keen to use her new skills to change for the better. Michael, her boss, breezes past her desk and says “How was the course?” “Fantastic, says Jolene, “I learned….” “We’ll talk later”, Michael says as he dashes away.
Later on, when an opportunity presents itself, Jolene makes another attempt to share with Michael some of the Time Management techniques she learned, because she is sure he will also find them useful, but he really doesn’t seem that interested.
She realizes that it is going to be difficult to implement and use most of what she learned, because the workplace is just not conducive to transferring the new skills to the job. And as all L&D practitioners learn, when you don’t use what you have learned within a relatively short space of time, you lose it.
What a waste of company money and opportunity cost. What a waste of Jolene’s time! Perhaps she was sent on the course as a “perk”, but she ends up feeling disheartened and de-motivated.
This story is intended to show that any Management and Personal Development training that is provided in a vacuum is wasteful and counter-productive. Such courses should be run in-company, so that the new skills and behaviours are understood by several people. Moreover, the training must be linked to organizational objectives.
An Aberdeen report on Learning and Development (2010) lists the top three ways “Best-in-class” organizations align their workforce with organizational objectives:
- Link Learning Programmes to development plans – this prevents learning from happening in a vacuum, or being provided as a “perk”;
- Link development plans to career paths, which are essential for organizations to achieve a positive return on the investment in their human capital’ ;
- Measure learning against organizational objectives – does learning result in achievement of business strategy?
If you are part of a small company, you are probably wondering what you can do. You don’t have enough people to run an in-house course, so you have to send employees on public courses. There are ways you can make it work for you though, with a bit of planning. Some suggestions:
- Ensure the Manager understands what the course objectives are, and has a plan for providing a workplace that is conducive to the employee using newly learned skills and behaviours.
- Using a training provider who is prepared to offer coaching to the delegate and the manager for a period after the training has taken place, to deal with issues that may arise.
- Use e-learning courses instead of sending delegates out to courses, but make sure there is an opportunity for the skills learned to be practiced in a safe environment. The suggestions in points 1 and 2 still apply.
- Encourage staff to access on-line materials for refresher and remedial learning.
Irrespective of how big or small your organization is, you must measure at all five levels as described by Kirkpatrick & Phillips:
- Level 1 – reaction – how did they like the course?
- Level 2 – Learning – measured by both formative and summative assessments.
- Level 3 – Job application – were the participants able to apply what they learned in the workplace. This is where the problem often lies. Management needs to be provided with tools that allow them to observe and measure transference of skills, and also might need an outside consultant who can assess whether the environment is conducive to applying new skills, and suggesting corrective action if it is not.
- Level 4 – Business results – did successful on-the-job application produce business results (this won’t happen if the training plan is not aligned to the business objectives).
- Level 5 – Return on Investment – did the monetary value of the results exceed the amount of money spent on the training?
If you don’t measure the results of your learning, you are wasting time and money. You also run the risk of having disengaged employees, who only want to go on courses to get out of the office.
If you need to help or advice on anything discussed in this article, please contact me for an obligation-free consultation.