5 Ways to Know Your Training Dollars Paid Off

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As a business leader, you foot the bill for training, but how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth? You can, and should, rely on your in-house trainers and external suppliers to provide quality, meaningful training. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

The good news is…you, as a business leader, are in the ideal position to increase the likelihood that the skills learned in class will transfer to the job. In fact, research suggests 2 of the 3 most important roles related to training are #1 – Manager Before and #3 – Manager After. In other words, what the manager does before and after training contributes most to whether or not the training is ‘transferred’ (a.k.a. applied).

Here are five pretty painless ways to make that happen…

  1. Participate. Ask for an executive overview of the training – for yourself and/or the managers of those being trained. The supplier, for example, would spend 30 minutes or so walking you through the program, including key learning points, models or techniques taught, application exercises used to help participants experience and retain the concepts, etc. You would receive a participant workbook and any job aides or handouts. Ideally, the executive overview precedes the training. This gives you the opportunity to request that certain points be emphasized or aligned with current business priorities. It also positions you to reinforce the new behaviors after the training.  
  2. Model. Select one aspect of the training that resonates with you, apply it to your role, and start practicing it. It could be anything from using the Situation-Behavior-Impact feedback model, to documenting performance expectations for your direct reports, to starting every company-wide meeting by publicly recognizing a handful of employees who have exceeded goals, to authoring a blog to keep employees ‘in the know’.
  3. Reward. Allocate a small sum of money to be used to reinforce the demonstration of behaviors and skills learned in training for 90 days following. Have managers of the participants partner with the facilitators to generate a short list of behaviors/skills to be rewarded. Publicize to participants that managers will be on the lookout to ‘catch’ them doing things ‘right’ and distributing rewards accordingly.
  4. Ask. ‘Walk the floor’, asking employees about the training…what they learned, what was most valuable, what they applied, how it worked, etc. Once employees learn they will be held accountable, they will be more likely to put the training to use.
  5. Connect. Tie the training to related initiatives, facilitating immediate application. For example, train employees on writing and delivering performance reviews just before they are due, train employees on goal setting at the beginning of the year, train employees on communication and team building at the start of a large organization-wide project, etc. Time the training and ‘tee it up’ by communicating why it’s being offered, why it’s important, and what related activity will immediately follow that calls for those skills. Having a senior leader endorse the training at the beginning of class is a great strategy too.

Leaders are like the media…they ‘tell’ us what to pay attention to and talk about. Take advantage of your role; try out these five easy steps. You will be amazed at how much more value you will get out of your training investment. And, who knows, you may even find a new technique that produces returns for you, too!