Tag Archives: training and development

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?

How to Achieve Disruptive Training and Development

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How effective is your training and development initiative? I have led and participated in training and development initiatives where the results in the classroom are great. The class is motivated, excited about the new tools and concepts, course ratings are high and everyone feels really good. When the class participants return to their work, they may try a few of the new techniques, but soon it’s business as usual. Has this ever happened to you?

Think online learning is the better approach? Businesses can agonize over finding the right online program, roll it out and require that each team member complete the course. The online course system will report on course completion compliance. Unfortunately, most people have busy schedules and cram multiple modules into a short timeframe near the deadline for completion. Some extend the course over a longer time, failing to absorb the concepts because too much time has passed between sessions. The result is the same for both types of course-takers, the learning is not embedded and the new skills are not utilized.

Face it, it’s easy to spend training budget on courses, check the box for the task “deliver training”, then deliver poor to mediocre performance appraisals to employees because there’s little application of new skills in their job. The employee must be the problem, right? Wrong!

What’s the solution? Training supported by active project-based coaching. Here are two examples of disruptive T&D that continues to deliver high performance and results.

Case 1: A global conglomerate needed cost and value improvement by enhancing tactical and strategic procurement skills. While the initial overall program components are not unusual—HR, procurement team and internal corporate university works with outside firm to roll-out competency assessment, online learning and instructor-led classroom training—it’s the implementation of a requirement to complete an action plan for an expenditure category in their portfolio over the 6 months following the classroom with coaching/mentoring available by the course instructors and the individual’s supervisor during this time. Actions plans had to be approved by the instructor and the supervisor.

The results were astounding! The documented return on investment from the training delivered $40 for every $1 invested in the program. Besides the $millions in savings and the value from innovation and other improvement, the learning was embedded and skillsets enhanced.

Case 2: A medium-sized company with 4 divisions was unable to get collaboration, leverage and synergy. The project focused on small category teams comprised of members from each business unit. A four-day workshop was delivered, during which tools and concepts were introduced, the teams selected projects, identified opportunities, built initial strategies and presented them to senior management. After the workshop, the teams launched with weekly conference calls with mentoring and coaching. The teams presented monthly updates to senior management. At the end of the 6 months, the supply base was optimized and $64 million in cost and value improvements were achieved.

Most companies are reluctant to engage in programs like these because of complexity and the additional cost of engaging an instructor or coach for longer than a 2-day course delivery. The right training provider can manage the complexity and offer a coaching program on a per person or monthly fee option that works for your budget and delivers the breakthrough you need.

5 Ways to Embed Learning

  1. Establish course completion timelines for online courses: use an outsourced provider to work with individuals, chart progress and report status
  2. Require a pre-requisite online course before delivery of a classroom course or workshop to orient participants so class time learning is optimized
  3. Include a work project in the training
    1. Alert the participants ahead of the training
    2. Allow class time to get the project started
  4. Provide coaching and mentoring post training by the training provider, internal resource or both.
  5. Launch category management teams with
    1. Kick-off workshop
    2. Weekly coaching
    3. Project management

Ready to disrupt your training initiatives?

5 Key Considerations for Developing Procurement and Supply Chain Teams

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Back to the Future: what does your team need in 2020?

I was speaking to an old friend about how the development of procurement teams has changed in the past 5 years. I found the conversation interesting and inspiring as he and I challenged the wisdom of traditional programs. No longer can companies be satisfied with traditional programs focusing on tactical and strategic functional skills. In recent years much has been accomplished in both the Procurement and Supply Chain profession; costs have been reduced, inventories optimized, logistics closely managed and there’s a renewed focus on supply chain alignment and integration. Lifecycles are shorter causing velocity and flexibility to be key drivers of supply chain and procurement success. So what type of skills development do our teams need now?

As we look to the next five years, we will need to design development programs that are enable companies to extract value, get innovation, improve speed to market and gain supplier to customer alignment across the entire supply chain. This will involve business integration, transparency and relationships that go far beyond what we have today. Once these new skills are embedded, synergy and interdependence will drive the supplier/customer interactions as we quickly respond to customer and market demands.

Since competency assessment models are being developed for the skill sets needed for today’s supply chain professionals, they will be inadequate as the supply chain continues to evolve unless future skills are included. Standard training programs where everyone goes through fixed, common training modules and development programs designed for functional competence will not accomplish what organizations need. It is essential that learning and development professionals and providers realign programs to move from a functional orientation to a business and relational skill-based approach.

It is true that procurement and supply chain teams still need technical and commercial skills. In fact, a few hours ago a Bloomberg news story got my attention that commodities are crashing like it’s 2008 again. To be competitive in the next five years, especially when faced with situations like commodity fluctuations wreaking havoc on your financial supply chain, these core skills must also be developed:

1) Influence

Organizations have changed from the command and control management model to a matrix organization structure. The interaction between business units, conflicting priorities, business drivers, budget holders and stakeholders has driven the need to develop our teams in influencing skills. The new opportunity to tailor processes, develop high-performing business teams and deliver increased levels of value depend on our ability to influence others.

2) Leadership Skills

The supply chain and procurement teams have a big role in the value contribution to their respective businesses. It is essential that we identify the right people in our organizations through succession planning, then provide leadership rotational programs, development programs and interesting projects to prepare them for their eventual role as company leaders. Companies need multi-generational leadership, combining experience and new digital thinking, for optimal results.

3) Relationship skills

It’s often difficult to understand that relationship skills are not innate. To ensure competitiveness, value extraction, alignment and trust across the supply chain, it would be wise to develop our teams in strategic relationship skills. The ability to be analytical, trustworthy, create options and operate with a principled approach is a learned skill. People operating in a tactical mode will no longer fit as the profession evolves. Since face to face communication is becoming antiquated in a fast paced environment where e-mail and text messaging becomes more the norm, written and verbal skills are more important than any other time in the history of the profession. Both internal and external company relationships will determine whether company goals are met or not.

4) Onboarding

While we are bringing in talent when we find it, it is essential to continually assimilate new employees with the company mission, vision, processes and culture. These development programs require orientation and integration of new employees so they can quickly integrate and use their talent, thus making contributions as soon as possible.

5) Learning

Developing supply chain and procurement professionals for the future is not business as usual. Much attention must be given to the soft skills of business when there are dramatic shifts in supply chain. Learning will continue to be an ongoing process as we advance with our technology, industry consolidation and innovation.

I am glad that my old friend asked me to provide one nugget of my learning and development philosophy. It made me think hard about moving to the future now. I am invigorated to provide the tools of the future now!

What skills are you developing?