How serious is your talent development program?

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Three myths about training

Over the past two decades I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s greatest companies on talent management programs where dedicated chief executive officers, chief purchasing officers, L&D leaders and HR executives have focused on employee development and growth. The reality is that some companies are dedicated to the overall competency of the individuals in the team, while others are looking to check off training and provide a feel-good exercise with limited results. Those who simply “check the training box” believe they are helping their team because of 3 myths.

Myth 1: online learning works as a standalone solution for development
With the pace of business today, many people delay taking online learning modules until they reach a deadline or their subscription is running out. As a result, many students cram the material to meet deadlines, but the learning is neither used nor retained. Online learning is great as a prerequisite for instructor-led learning or coaching. It enables gaining a common vocabulary, presenting basics and bringing everybody up to a common platform prior to a project, web meeting or a training class. I once had a discussion with an HR director who had an objective to conduct recurrent training. He told me that by using disaggregated online training modules, he meets his objective, has no travel costs and will be considered a hero in his organization. The unfortunate fact is people will be wasting time taking the modules without any impact on the company’s or individual’s overall performance. Many organizations buy online learning subscriptions that are never used.

Online learning is an effective tool when combined with other learning and development activities.

Myth 2: a training workshop will improve competency

While a training workshop will expose individuals and teams to new concepts and ideas, the attendees rarely apply the new concepts and tools to their daily work. Many people come to the workshop, spend several days, make friends, have some fun and return to an environment where processes and hectic schedules do not facilitate the embedding and use of new tools. Most effective workshop programs I have seen have online learning prerequisite requirements, instructor-led course delivery and a project assigned at the end of the course. The project normally is completed in six months and must deliver tangible benefits to the by demonstrating the use of all the workshop tools. The instructor is available to act as a coach and the employee’s supervisor monitors the project through its completion. Once completed, the company provides credit for taking the course and enjoys direct benefits, the employee has embedded the learning and there is a high return on investment for the development program—I’ve personally witnessed a validated return of $40 for every $1 spent in a training and development program using this model. I am now using this model with a subscription-based category management program that is delivering even better results.

A training course combined with a program to embed the learning delivers tangible benefits for the company and individuals.

Myth 3: management can watch from the sidelines

Unfortunately, some management believes training of any kind is good for the team. They’re happy to see it launched, but feel that they already know the course content and see no reason to participate. Without involvement of management, the team fails to take it seriously. On one assignment, I had to stop the training program to develop a crash course for the leaders who realized their team was speaking a new language and using new effective tools that they didn’t understand. Leaders learn a lot by observing individuals and team dynamics during training. Leading by example through participation in the training always delivers higher performing teams with incredible results.

Management participation in learning programs shows commitment to building and retaining top class talent.

Witnessing these 3 myths, I’ve fundamentally changed my approach to learning. Action learning and small group coaching always leads to embedded skills and their application. Long gone are the days where training is just a few days away from the office and training manuals get dusty on the bookshelf.

A radical change to the development of teams and individuals is required. The old methods just don’t work anymore.

Are you still scheduling a training course just to meet an annual objective?

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One response to “How serious is your talent development program?

  1. Bill nails the issue with much of corporate learning. It needs to be more than checking the training box!

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