Rolling out a training and development initiative can be a challenge, particularly when you need to consider the needs of multiple stakeholders, select the right training content, choose the best providers, and, most importantly, deliver training that successfully builds skills and changes employee behavior. When done right, investing in employee training brings a multitude of benefits to the organization, including more engaged employees who are better equipped to tackle the challenges they encounter at work. According to Robert Half, organizations with a strong learning culture have employee engagement and retention rates that are 30-50 percent higher than those that don’t.
Applying the following practical strategies will not only help to get your training initiative off the ground, but will also help to ensure ongoing employee behavior change and performance improvement. Here are four ways to maximize your next training initiative investment.
Understand Your Current State
Though it can be tempting to identify a skills gap and immediately try to find a training solution to fill it, any successful training initiative requires that you first understand your current state and establish clear goals for employee learning and development. When you take the time to speak with all the relevant stakeholders, identify and prioritize the necessary competencies, and align training to company objectives, the training solution is more likely to achieve its desired goal. Here are some key activities you should undertake to help you understand where you are and where to make the most impactful investment in employee training:
- Conduct an insights discovery. Gather information about current employee attitudes, skill levels, and readiness for training, as well as the level of managerial support for training.
- Develop a competency framework. Identify the specific behaviors and abilities that are required for success across company functions and levels of responsibility.
- Align training with business strategy. Ensure that your training initiative aligns with company objectives and will have the ongoing support of company leaders.
Key to the success of any training initiative are supportive leaders who actively participate in the development of their people. Leaders model desired behaviors and deliver feedback that guides individual behavior. They can also drive a culture of continuous learning by playing a role in delivering training. When leaders also teach, a number of benefits result:
- With more leaders involved in training, the training initiative becomes more scalable.
- Leaders act as subject matter experts when they teach because they have a deep understanding of the everyday challenges their people face.
- Leaders and the individuals on their teams have new opportunities to connect and build relationships of trust.
- After training, leaders and their people can work together on applying what was covered in training.
Select the Right Partner
Another way to maximize the impact of your training initiative investment is to select the right partner—a partner that not only delivers training but also helps you achieve your training goals related to gaining stakeholder support, developing competency, and providing ongoing reinforcement activities. When selecting a training partner, it’s important to choose one that utilizes a learning methodology that doesn’t just deliver information but also effectively changes the mindset and skills of employees through real-world, relevant learning exercises. Ideally, your partner will utilize highly effective training methods such as experiential learning, which can deliver as much as 90 percent learning retention—much more than other learning methods. Your training partner should also have a highly qualified team of expert facilitators who know how to deliver training in an engaging and fun way, as well as the resources to deliver train-the-trainer instruction in areas where you need it.
Reinforce and Measure Training Results
For the lessons covered in training to “stick,” your training initiative requires ongoing reinforcement and measurement. You can measure progress and better understand training ROI by routinely collecting data on things such as improvements in employee performance, retention, and engagement. Reinforcement helps individuals retain what they’ve learned and use it at work. Examples of reinforcement tools and activities can include:
- Routine communication and celebrations of employee achievements by leaders after training
- Ongoing coaching from front-line managers
- Digital content reinforcement to boost learning
- Surveys to gauge how well individuals understand and apply lessons learned in training
Training is not an event, but rather a journey that starts with understanding your current state and developing a training initiative that will help to achieve company goals. With the right partner and approach to learning that brings about lasting behavior change, you can maximize your training initiative investment and improve both individual and company performance.