What are the factors that cause the difference between successful and unsuccessful training initiatives? While every project is different, we have identified four key factors:
Activate Group chooses from processes and principles that have proven to yield consistent success for many years. The results have occurred across different countries and continents and have been used in almost every industry. We find that it is best to not reinvent what works. Instead we work hard to focus on proven practices. The challenge lies in the four key factors discussed above.
CEOs and the rest of the leadership team come in all different sizes, shapes, styles, and backgrounds. Those variations influence how people behave, hiring practices, motivation schemes, degrees of accountability, amount of focus there is, strength of culture, and so on. This will have a direct influence on the success or failure on training initiatives.
As a result, we do our best to learn as much as we can about your systems, processes, leadership styles, and culture before designing a program. By learning about the organization and its people we can understand how your organization and its leadership may inadvertently compromise the success of the initiative. These obstacles need to be addressed to help maximize success and return on investment and energy.
The key here is to understand that training is change, and change begins in the company, not with the consultant or trainer. The job of the consultant or trainer is to provide processes, systems, knowledge and/or tools that can help you change your culture and how your people operate in that culture. The consultant or trainer can help the leader identify thought processes that are getting in the way of progress. It is the senior leadership’s responsibility to show their organization that they are committed to making these changes to their own thought processes to drive results – even if that change is not comfortable! If you have an open mind and are committed to change, then your people will step up.
There must be a results mindset to training. While this seems obvious, it is common to find training programs that are done for the sake of training. Many organizations have not thought through the “why” of training and, the outcomes they are trying to achieve, and how in the short- or long-term they intend to affect the top and bottom line. All training should have a positive impact on your bottom line. In addition, companies should determine the proper allocation of their cost structure to training. Management must carefully prioritize training to target those initiatives that will have the biggest impact on bottom line. Properly planned training reduces turnover, improves productivity, increases quality, reduces the number of people needed in the organization, increases customer retention, and/or leads to more sales. Benchmarks to measure progress should be predetermined and tracked.
This is the most important issue of all. When an organization does not like employee performance the first response is to throw them into training. However, would you send an accountant to medical school? Typically the best accountants would not make great doctors as they possess and were born with different talents. Talents cannot be taught in a training class. We can teach people skills and knowledge, but if they lack the core talents for a role, they will still underperform in that role. Very often companies have not done the proper job in the hiring process, and rather than taking the proper steps to acquire appropriate personnel, they are hoping that training will make their problems go away.
Using assessments we try to help our clients determine whether they have properly hired people into the right roles to begin with. Or if they are promoting someone, whether that will be the right move. Otherwise, they will be providing training to the wrong people. You want to provide training to people that can and will perform well in their position. Many companies have a policy of “a hope and a prayer” that their poor performers will turn around after attending training. This has never worked well and will continue to be a bad practice for companies.
Just because an organization made a decision to do training does not mean there is a commitment to that decision. Typically for an organization, training equals change. Companies use outside trainers to gain access to methods that are typically better than what currently exists inside the company. There is a belief that the current internal system is inadequate. However, the new ideas conflict with the traditional belief systems of many of the employees and even the executive team.
While this is known, management underestimates the challenges that will be faced when people push back and do not want to change. They are unrealistic on how long it will take for people to permanently and consistently change their old belief systems to the new ones that are required to implement the new processes. Most initiatives should take a minimum of 9 to 12 months, and most leadership teams are not patient enough to wait. While they begin to see results, these are leading indicators and sometimes not as large as management had envisioned, or the measurements are in the wrong areas. They fail to recognize the value of the programs and stop too early because of their lack of full commitment to see things through.
Great leaders look for a training organization that will help them properly evaluate and understand the impact of their systems, processes and culture on the results they want. Such an organization helps clients structure a program with measurable results and just don’t design training for its own sake. They focus on training the right people and look to work with clients that are committed to seeing their programs through to the end.
Howard Shore is a business growth expert who works with companies that want to maximize their growth potential by improving strategy, enhancing their knowledge, and improving motivation. To learn more about him or his firm, please contact Howard Shore at [phone link=”true”] or firstname.lastname@example.org.