One of the recurring frustrations with training programs is that they don’t make a real impact on business performance. Granted, it’s difficult to pinpoint cause and effect between training and overall business success, but often the two don’t reflect the same priorities. If that sounds familiar, realign your focus and reunite training with the business. Then you’ll see positive results for your efforts.
Realign your training focus.
If you’re not satisfied with your current program, you’re not alone. According to a recent article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, “In 2012, companies in developed economies spent nearly $400 billion on training. And yet, at least one study concludes that the majority of managers believe that employee performance wouldn’t suffer if their own company’s learning function were eliminated altogether!”
In order for a program to make a positive impact, it needs to reflect your company’s goals. If you’ve taken the time to set targets for 2016, you’ve probably made a plan for meeting them. For example, you may have a goal of increasing profits by 20% this year.
What changes are you going to make to achieve this goal? You might add new systems that improve efficiency, beef up sales skills to expand the customer base, or add content marketing to increase website sales.
In other words, your employees will have to learn new software, new sales techniques, or content marketing skills such as blog writing. This is the point at which you can align your training program with your business goals.
Train on the skills that will directly impact your goals.
Take a look at any instruction you currently have planned. It should fall into one of three categories:
- Initial training for new hires
- Safety training
- Training on the behaviors required to meet your business goal
Unless you’re onboarding a newbie or preventing dire injury, you should only focus on key skills – those that will move your company forward.
Reunite training with the business.
At this point, many companies would start planning courses and scheduling days to pull people out of the office for “training.” But we want training to be closely aligned with the business, so why separate learning and work?
Learning should be a part of the business, not apart from the business.
And your team prefers training at work, too. In a recent Learning in the Workplace survey, participants ranked knowledge sharing with teammates as their most preferred mode of development and traditional classroom training or e-learning as the least preferred.
And as noted in a recent white paper by Impact International, learning in the workplace ensures that employees focus on realistic applications of their new knowledge. Thus, they can adopt new behaviors more quickly and retain them better than with classroom approaches.
For many companies, informal, work-based training seems too unstructured. But it’s worth making an effort to try it. Besides making progress on company priorities, you find employees become more engaged and satisfied. And you save the cost of formal classrooms or videos.
Try some informal learning strategies.
Here are a few ways to get started with on-the-job learning.
Ask employees to take projects requiring new skills. Provide resources, support and follow-up to ensure they succeed but let them tackle the challenge.
Pair up more experienced employees with new ones on key tasks that require your key skills. This is especially useful if some employees already have desired abilities and can help others learn them as well.
Researchers Jane Dutton and Emily Heaphy have found this strategy effective in the companies they study. A mini-mastermind is a group of two or three people each with a specific learning goal. They meet regularly to hold each other accountable, help overcome obstacles and provide support as they’re learning and applying new knowledge to their jobs.
If you have some employees who enjoy content creation, ask them to make cheat-sheets, how-to guides or infographics that others can use to help them remember newly learned behaviors.
[Learn how to implement informal learning here.]
When you make learning part of the job, you give employees a great deal of responsibility for their own development. But that doesn’t let managers and L&D leaders off the hook. In fact, leadership involvement can make or break your success.
Managers need to assess progress, help provide resources, and make sure that employees have the time and latitude to work on the new skills. Leaders should also praise and recognize those who are teaching others or initiating their own learning.
[Learn how to manage informal learning here.]
Measure the payoff.
The Business Dictionary defines alignment as the “linking of organizational goals with employees’ personal goals.” By letting your company targets dictate your training activities and by tightly coupling training with challenging, meaningful work assignments, you’ll have your entire company pulling in the same direction. And as you measure your business achievements, you’ll have a much better understanding of how effective your training has been.