Training Is a Treacherous Journey…

But measuring each step carefully along the way can enable you to reach your destination safely. Finding a solid path from the training event all the way to the final destination (business impact and ROI) will make any initiative successful. Each employee must be able to make this treacherous journey on his or her own, but as training architects and evaluators, we can do three things to help them along the way. We can create a clear and smooth path to their destination, and we can build strong support pillars for them to step on so nothing crumbles under their feet. Then, we can build them a bridge.

Creating a Clear Path

Far too often, training professionals choose a solution, highlight the key learning objectives and then hope that it will have an impact on the business somewhere down the line. They end up scrambling under the gun (or maybe even the ax) to convince their business leaders with a few smile sheets and anecdotal testimonials that training worked. This approach doesn’t fly. Would it be enough for you if you spent your money on training?

Training professionals need to build a clear and logical path from training to business results. How did attending the training lead to learning? How did learning lead to behavior change? How did behavior change lead to business results? How did business results pay back the original investment? And what gave some people higher returns on the training than others?

When it comes to creating this business case and evaluation strategy, keep it simple and intuitive. A good approach is to start at your destination and work backward – that is, begin with the business results you need and ask yourself what employee behaviors need to change in order for that business impact to happen. Then, what type of employee learning will create that behavior change? And, finally, what training will embed that learning in employees? Outlining these links and relationships up front is a fairly simple step that will make all the difference later on.

Building Support Pillars

Imagine going through three days of training and then returning to an environment that doesn’t support the application and demonstration of that training. What if your everyday job role doesn’t afford you the opportunity to apply what you learned? What if your leader doesn’t care about the training or your development? What if there are no rewards (formal or informal) for changing and improving your behaviors? There are many climate factors that can foster or frustrate the impact of your training, so it’s up to you as a training architect to identify which have the biggest influence and improve them. What are the biggest supporters and most significant predictors of success?

Because work environments, the business, teams and success metrics can be diverse within and across organizations, these climate factors, and the support pillars that strengthen them, are not universal or set in stone. There are many possible factors within your own unique organization, and uncovering them will take a bit of research and analysis. The good news is that there are a few usual suspects that you can start with right away:

  • Manager support: Does the participant’s supervisor endorse the training and want to discuss how it will impact performance?
  • Recognition and reward for applying new behaviors: Do participants receive positive recognition for applying what they learned in training?
  • Opportunity to apply the new behaviors: How frequently do participants have the chance to show how much they’ve improved the behaviors?

Once you’ve done your analysis and uncovered a critical factors, you’re ready to partner with business leaders and develop a solution that brings the biggest predictors of success to life. These solutions or tools could simply be highlighting what the climate factors are, what the role of participant and leader will be in improving them, and a “contract” on what improvement will look like three months down the road. While the entire process takes little extra energy and almost no extra budget, a few of these deliberate and prescriptive actions along the way can significantly improve your climate – which means far greater ROIs.

Building the Bridge

So, what are you waiting for? Start building that bridge. Without a clear path to the other side, as well as strong and sturdy pillars under their feet, your employees will never reach their destination, and your training will never impact the business. Guide them through every step along the way.

Measuring each step will tell you where the training had the most impact and where you need more support. Even if your participants lose their way, fall off the bridge and plunge helplessly into the dark abyss of wasted training, you can, at least, retrace their steps and find out where and why they went astray.