U.S. corporations spent about $70.6 billion on training last year. Roughly 60 percent ($42 billion) of that amount was spent internally. What can we do to ensure that money is well-spent? Research has consistently shown that good training results in benefits to both organizations (e.g. effectiveness, better service, profitability, sales and customer satisfaction) and individuals (e.g. developing new or more refined skills, greater content or job-related knowledge, strategic knowledge, enhanced performance, or greater self-efficacy). To achieve these outcomes, L&D professionals must understand modern adult learners, provide learners with control over their learning (along with formal elements to help shape the learning) and provide enough time for employees to learn.
Just as important as understanding these best practices is recognizing some elements that are critical not to do. When designing an L&D initiative, don’t…
1. Skip the Needs Assessment
Draft a proposal of what you think needs to happen based on your directive. Then, go talk to people! You will not find better information than what you will learn by talking to the people who need help (or their managers, peers or customers). The more people you can talk to, the better, even in a short time frame. Summarize what you learn, and see if your client agrees with at least two or three main points. Focus on those main points, and build from there.
Skipping this step can jeopardize the legitimacy of your program, not only with the people who need the training but with their managers and other leaders in the organization. The needs assessment is your foundation.
2. Plan a Major Rollout All at Once
Have you ever spent a year or more planning, designing and working toward a goal, only to have it fall flat? Instead, build buy-in and momentum through several easy steps:
- Try a pilot group (or two or three). Select a few key areas (groups, business lines, offices, etc.) that are excited about the program.
- Work with them to roll out the initiative.
- Obtain feedback, tweak and try again.
- Let some of the initial positive feedback work for you; have employees do the selling for you once they’ve had a good experience.
3. Think a New Platform Will Implement Itself
Keeping up with and using technology is critical, but don’t be fooled that a new platform will make everything better on its own. Training programs are products. You need to design the platform (perhaps bundling prepared learning components), advertise (using a communications plan), plan the roll-out (in phases with different service levels or capacities) and support the employees are using the platform. It’s easy to create tutorials and then support them with in-person sessions or web conferences for a personal touch.
Teach people how to learn. Just saying “it’s here” isn’t enough. Create learning paths or mini-curricula based on different roles, levels or functions, with clear expectations for timing. For example, “If you are a new manager, these three sessions are a great introduction to human resource management. Take them within the first three months in your new position.”
4. Forget About Endorsements
Ask a few key senior leaders to use the program or platform and talk about their experience with it. Their testimonies will help provide the credibility you need to launch the program. Also, ask people from the original pilot group to talk about the program. Think about who these people are. How well-connected are they to other employees? Are they skeptics? Skeptics may prove to be your biggest challenge initially, but when you gather their input and then create and implement a good program, they can become your biggest fans.
5. Forget to Collect Feedback and Data
Think about ways to show your program’s impact before you run the first session. Consider what type of data (e.g., content knowledge, skills or attitudes) would best show the effectiveness of your program. Then, try to gather data at the end of the first program and one or two weeks later. Obtain feedback from the people in the program and from their managers and co-workers who might have been impacted by the training. Showing feedback (informal or formal) will help you as you continue to roll it out to other employees.