Get the most out of your training dollars


Why don’t people demonstrate better results from training when they get back on the job?

Last year, you sent your supervisors and lead hands to that course on how to talk to employees to get their cooperation. Remember the results? A few weeks of brave new talk and then everyone calmed down and went back to “normal”. More recently, two of your key operators attended the manufacturer’s training sessions to learn how to maximize the output of your new technology. Now only they know how to make it run well – even though you specifically asked them to focus on passing the information along to their team members.

And today your operations team asked you to foot the bill for a project management skills program, claiming that it will save re-work and reduce down-time so much that you will recoup the cost of the training in six months. Yeah, right. No wonder your feel sceptical; all too often the benefits we expect to see in individual capabilities and company return-on-investment never materializes. What’s wrong with this picture? In my opinion, it is not complete because training is only one element.

No matter how well the employee masters the information and techniques being taught, when he – or she – comes back to the job, nothing can change if the rest of the circumstances stay exactly as they were before. It is those very constraints that keep everyone and everything pumping out the same results, regardless of individual variation.

For instance, if the supervisor or manager to whom he reports refuses to participate in the new way of doing things, the newly-trained employee will be frustrated in his efforts to think, speak and act differently. If the employee finds out the new skills – whether technical or managerial – are not rewarded in his job appraisal, what incentive is there for him or her to try?

Instead of training as a solution, let’s think of it as just one piece of the puzzle.

The other pieces are how we match changes in the environment and work processes to employees’ new skills and knowledge, so the benefits can take hold. That is what “human performance improvement” is all about. This is the focus of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI– Its last conference was probably the best one I have ever I attended, because the calibre of the presenters was so high and everyone was focused on bringing their special knowledge to the services of performance improvement. Academic researchers, change experts, tactical professionals, instructional designers, trainers, and systems technologists all provided their insights on the multiple aspects of this key business arena. I could not wait to get back and start putting the tools, techniques and concepts I discovered to work for my clients!

After all, as a practitioner of human performance improvement, I continually remind myself that even very high levels of personal skill are not enough to compensate for problems in the system, and even the best systems still require high levels of personal skill for complete effectiveness.

I would love to hear about the returns your company has achieved – or not – through staff development and training. If the ROI is not what you expected, maybe some systemic changes are due. Let me know!

Copyright(c) 2013 Carol J. Sutton Cert.ConRes.


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