Do you remember when you were a child and your parents made you take music, language or dance lessons, or play that sport you really weren’t interested in? Remember how it felt hearing that what you were doing was good for you, but feeling as if what you wanted didn’t matter? Contrast that to the day you finally got to choose your own activity — the day your parents said, “yes!” to the camp you wanted to go to or that activity you had been asking about for weeks. Knowing that permission was granted for the sole purpose of your joy and your individual developmental needs is memorable: It feels good to know that what you want matters.

That is the contrast that we as learning and development (L&D) professionals need to remember when creating training plans. Companies are now in a situation where they must prove that they are willing to invest in more than just job preparation. Gone are the days of the one-sided business relationship where companies could afford to provide rushed, subpar training and then expect an employee to work, waiting to be recognized. In this time of The Great Resignation, companies that want to remain relevant, profitable and respected need to demonstrate a willingness to invest in the future state of their employees.

This need for companies to do more for their staff has become critical for successful growth. According to a Harvard Business Review article, “Organizations will need to prioritize reskilling and upskilling to attract and retain the talent they need to make their businesses grow. Those that do will not only boost the motivation of their existing workers but will gain the attention of the brightest new recruits and position themselves to emerge from the pandemic not just where they were, but in a stronger, better position to move forward.”

Employees are making it clear through their choices that flexible work environments, diverse teams and professional development are qualities they expect to find in their new work environments. So, why is this even an issue to begin with? Isn’t the whole point of a training plan to develop employees?

The Problem with Training Plans

The creation of a strong training plan may sound like the answer to empowering employees, but often they fail to meet employees’ needs. According to the article “Why Do Some Corporate Programs Fail?”, 50% of all corporate training programs fail in part because of irrelevant training content, uninterested learners and disengaged employees who feel no need to learn. In other words, training is being directed at employees instead of being crafted for employees, with their input.

Think about the last training plan you developed. Was it created to aid in the growth of an employee or was it created to get a specific job accomplished? Training that is meant to help an employee do their current job benefits the company; training that helps the employee develop the skills and acumen they need to grow professionally benefits the employee. This is where training and development differ.

Remembering the “D”

“Development” can be defined as “a specified state of growth or advancement.” A good training plan reflects the skills and knowledge a learner needs to exceed in their role. It demonstrates the company’s desire to make an employee successful, but that success is based on meeting company defined objectives for production and profitability. Professional development plans (PDPs) incorporate the desires and objectives of the employee. A successful PDP results in the employee accomplishing their self-defined objectives in a manner that benefits the company they work for. The ultimate goal for leadership and training departments is to motivate employees to want to stay and develop their careers in your organization, rather than looking for that development elsewhere.

Development in Action

Training departments need to work with learners to craft future-oriented PDPs that include knowledge and experience acquisition.

PDPs cannot become “busy work” activities.  A strong PDP includes high quality professional experiences that showcase the value of a person’s talent and provides them with opportunities to observe, experience and apply new skills in different ways.

If you can demonstrate your dedication to an employee’s growth and illustrate what a prosperous future with your organization can look like for them, then, you have a winning strategy for retention and a foundation for employee loyalty.

Register for the Spring Training Industry Conference & Expo (TICE) to hear Shariem Saterfield’s session, “Remember the ‘D’ in L&D!’”