The Case Study
Case Study: Why Employee Training and Education Often Fail
161.7 Billion dollars was spent last year on employee training and education, but most companies are not happy with their ROI. Their people return to their daily routine raving about how great the training was, but within a few weeks or months, everyone has returned to their behavior of old. Leadership should change the way they think about their training efforts. Context is crucial, skill and techniques are crucial, the culture of the organization and management processes are crucial and must be considered first when organizing training.
What are the key reasons for failure?
(1) Unclear direction on strategy and values, which often leads to conflicting priorities;
(2) Senior executives who don’t work as a team and haven’t committed to a new direction or acknowledged necessary changes in their behavior;
(3) A top-down or laissez-faire style of the leader, which prevents an honest conversation about problems;
(4) A lack of coordination across businesses, functions, or regions due to poor organizational design;
(5) Inadequate leadership time and attention given to talent issues; and
(6) Employees’ fears by telling the senior team about obstacles to the organization’s effectiveness
Why Leadership Training Fails—and What To Do About It. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/10/why-leadership-training-fails-and-what-to-do-about-it
These six-common managerial and organizational barriers prevented people from applying what they’ve learned, no matter how smart and motivated they are. Thus, the learning does not create better organizational performance because people soon revert to their old ways of doing things.
What is having an even larger impact than the previous mention six items is the mere fact that the person doing the training does not understand the culture of the company. They do not spend the time to learn about the company and its culture.
Consider a medium sized manufacturing company in Northern California. After investing in an off the shelf training program, from one of the Nation’s largest training companies sold to them as a method to improve leadership and organizational effectiveness. The results six weeks later were disappointing. For an entire training day, the team fully engaged and walked away with excitement and a game plan for success. Participants described the program as very powerful, useful and motivational. They participated in numerous tasks that required teamwork, and they received real-time feedback on both individual and group behavior. The program ended with a written 30-day action plan for taking the learning back and making a difference. Surveys suggested that participants’ attitudes had significantly improved. However, only a tiny percentage of the participants attempted to follow through with the 30-day action plan. A few weeks later they found it impossible to apply what they had learned about teamwork and collaboration because the trainer did not understand the culture of the company or even discussed during the workshop. The Leadership Team feels better about the direction that the manager and supervisor of have started down, but also feel that they could have been and should be better for the investment of over $4000.
This type of out of the box training does not work. It seldom will for any organization hoping for long term results. Leaders of the various group often share that the culture in which they work makes it difficult for their teams to put the learning to work on a consistent basis after the training.
Many companies pour money into training with high hopes of seeing an ROI that will justify the cost.
But what is needed is a different way of thinking about learning and development. Leadership must do their part to avoid the six pitfalls listed above but also must be willing to help bring the culture of their company into the training room.
Customized training becomes a must. The Leadership of a company should take an active role in the design of the curriculum for each training day. The leadership should help set the framework for a successful training environment. What are your current management practices when it comes to HR issues, documentation of employee behavior, documentation of discipline problems, the process of hiring employees? These processes and more should play a role in the training day or week. What is most important to your team.
Additionally, a follow-up system must be in place. With additional skills being taught and open time for frank discussion about what is working and what is not. A follow up system could last for up to a year for continued team growth and development.
Ohio State leadership seminal studies found that one program had succeeded in changing frontline supervisors’ attitudes about how they should manage, but a follow-up study revealed that most supervisors had then regressed to their pre-training views. The only exceptions were those whose leaders practiced and believed in the leadership style the program was designed to teach. A structured follow-up system also created the success of these programs
A program designed with consultation with the leadership of each company.
A poor return on investment isn’t the only adverse outcome of failed training program. An atmosphere of distrust between the employee and leadership occurs.
Some leaders may fool themselves into believing that they are implementing real change through corporate education, but others in the organization know better. Leadership is soon asking why don’t my leaders get this? Why are they not applying what they learned?
Creating an ROI that Leadership can point to as a success by creating a long term lasting change is not only the duties of the company but mainly falls on the shoulders of the training organization selected to make a difference.
Will the training company survey and evaluate the Leadership’s needs?
Will the training organization create material for each company they work with? Or like so many, are the just repurposing the same material time after time?
Will the trainer spend time at the site with the participants before the workshop, to gain a better understanding of the culture? Or do they just arrive the day of and leave that evening?
Is there a solid plan in place to create follow-up procedures for the participants? A plan that will require the participants to continue to learn and grow for six months or up to a year.
Will the training company require the following?
The leadership of a company defines values and direction for their leaders.
The collecting of candid (anonymous) findings and insights
Allow accountability for continued learning for up to one year.
A successful training program revealed significant behavioral changes in the team. With a solid strategy for class room work and follow up work the execution of leadership skills improved rapidly. It was estimated by the CEO a tenfold return was taking place in a few short weeks.