How can companies increase the ROI of Training programs?

If companies want to improve the results of their ROI of training programs, managers and executives must start focussing on what happens in the workplace before and after employees attend a workshop. Training starts before people start the session and doesn’t end when participants leave the classroom.

According to the 2017 Training Industry report companies in the United States spend more than $90,6 billion in training their employees in 2017. Total training expenditures (including payroll and spending on external products and services) rose more than 32,5%. Overall, on average, companies spend $1,075 per leaner in 2017, while in 2016 companies spend $814 per learner.

2017 TRAINING Industry Report

These numbers prove that companies are investing more and more in their employees to help them acquire skills they need to work more efficiently (e.g. communication skills, leadership skills, performance management, etc.). But sadly the ROI of investing in training is still low. The trainings don’t seem to have enough impact.

The ROI of Training

According to a recent McKinsey survey only 25% of the respondents said their training programs measurably improved their business performance and most companies don’t even track the ROI of training. Companies simply invest in training because they know they need a highly skilled team to increase productivity, hence it’s a good thing to do.

So there is obviously a knowing-doing gap and in most cases it’s not the content of the training that is the problem (though many companies could definitely improve their trainings). When senior leaders get personally involved and focus on how they can make their trainings work, improvement and an increase in results can be seen almost instantly. That’s why programs like Train The Trainer where managers and senior leaders give the training, have been in the uprise. The most significant improvements lie in rethinking the mindsets that employees and their leaders bring to the workshop, as well as the environment they come back to afterwards. This can only be done by the people who lead the company. So companies have to stop “relying” on the training itself. Participants might really like the training itself, but if 6 months later people haven’t changed, than the training was a waste of time and money. Basically the training was (insert expletive)!

So how can you improve the ROI of training?

Make your people want to learn

If you want your employees to master a new skill, first you have to start with convincing your people that the training will help them improve their performance and that it’s something good for their career. If you can make your people recognize that their performance can be improved in a certain area, they will actually start the training with a drive to learn a new skill. They will choose to learn. Unfortunately most companies enrol their people into a new program and assume their employees “get it” and understand the “what’s in it for me”.

If you don’t make your people want to learn, then skepticism might also be a barrier to learning. Turn your employees into active learners, not “prisoners”! Trust me  when I say I have heard hundreds if not thousands of times “I am here, because I have to be”. So next time you start a new training program, prepare your people. Make them want to change and develop their desire to learn a new skill.

NOTE: Detect problematic mind-sets of people who are resilient to the new program and help these people change their mindsets before the training.

Help close the knowing-doing gap

One of the biggest problems with training is that it’s not because we know something that we actually will do it. If people don’t apply what they have learned, the training was a waste of time, energy and money (no matter how good the training was). So how can you help close this knowing-doing gap? First, select training courses that are evidence based and build around habit design. Second, empower your own managers to give the trainings. This is fundamental to help your people close the gap. Your senior leaders can help create an environment and systems to help people change before and after a training.

Participants don’t leave most training programs prepared to put the new skills and habits into practice. Old habits die hard. Remember? Senior leaders have to reinforce and support the new kinds of behaviour after they are learned. Help your people close the knowing-doing gap. One of the biggest mistakes corporate leaders make is assuming that their people will magically figure out for themselves how to incorporate what they have learned in a training in their day-to-day activities. 88% of all new habits attempts fail, so senior leaders have to be there to support and reinforce the new skills. Don’t give up at the first try!

Get Your Leaders on Board

To ensure actual change, companies must have meaningful support from their own leaders. If leaders agree with the goals of a training program, but don’t apply them in their own day-to-day behavior and way of working, employees will see that change isn’t necessary. Your own people have to walk the talk.

Imagine one of your own managers giving a course on feedback to his team. He will be the expert in feedback in the company. He will be the person people turn to when they have questions related to his area of expertise. If the manager applies all the feedback habits that were taught during the training in his day-to-day life, others will follow. The manager will also be able to monitor the behavior of his team and help individuals who are struggling with the change or new habits.

Measure the impact

That seems obvious. Right? Nope. For some reason most companies don’t bother with measuring the impact and ROI of training. McKinsey found that only 50% of organizations ask their employees feedback about a training program. Worse is that only 30% use any other kind of metric. You can’t measure the effectiveness of a course by asking your people if they liked the training! Gather real numbers that can measure the impact of the training. Find ways to measure actual behavior change.

Training can go wrong in hundreds of ways, but most failures occur outside the classroom. So make sure you prepare your people before a training and create an environment after the training that is favourable to developing new habits. Training doesn’t end when people leave the classroom. Companies who this can improve the business impact of the training programs almost instantly.

Want to talk to a change specialist to help your organization increase the ROI of training? Contact CUTESolutions.

Good luck with those new habits!

Haroun (Online Manager CUTESolutions.)

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Excellent article on the ROI of training programs! Identifying the WIIFM for the individual employee and having managers lead the training can be very helpful in ensuring that the content of the training is actually implemented at work. Too many times, the manager has no idea about the focus of their subordinate’s training.
    FYI: You just got a new follower. 🙂

    1. Cutesolutions says:

      When we created CUTESolutions in the beginning that was one of our main mistakes. We focused only on the content of the courses. People liked our courses, but sometimes we heard of companies that had invested in our trainings that they didn’t see any actual change six months down the road. So we had failed. Witch was a good thing. After a while we understood the problem wasn’t the content. People knew what they had to do, but weren’t doing it. There was a gap between knowing and doing. From then on we started focussing our training courses on figuring out how we can close that gap. Managers have an important role when the participants walk out of the training. They can’t expect their people to automatically start doing things. It doesn’t work like that. They have to prepare and support their people both before and after the training. The ROI of the training investment depends on the environment that is created before and after the training. Super cheers for your comment! Glad to be connected.

      1. Agreed! Training isn’t a “silver bullet” that will automatically change employee habits or the corporate culture. Managers are critical in ensuring that what is learned in the training will be implemented back in the workplace.
        Cheers for your commitment to make these changes in the workplace, too!

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