Many employees are working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Online training providers such as Udemy, EdX, Coursera, Shaw Academy, Allison, and others report record enrollment. Employees clearly are interested in acquiring additional knowledge to further their skills and increase their promotion prospects. The training topics include everything from how to become a better listener to pursuing a degree in Data Science. Many of us want to learn and the avenues for doing so are greater and easier now than ever before. Online training content continues to improve and is becoming cheaper in the process. Why do organizations continue to struggle to offer and deliver training that is meaningful to individuals and strategic to the organization?
Why do training programs fail?
- Alignment of training initiatives to strategic objectives and metric/Key Process Indicator (KPI) performance,
- Disassociation between training content and application in work,
- Lack of Coaching or Mentoring follow-up,
- Lack of Ownership or Commitment by Senior Management,
- Overall Responsibility, direction, and focus for training is not centralized in Human Resources but delegated to each individual operating unit,
- Training Content and/or delivery has not been evaluated based on the needs of the learners,
- Cost of training is prohibitive to the organization, and
- Effectiveness or measurement of training is not implemented.
Why is effective training important?
Learning with the goal of individual growth or development is worthy by itself. However, training delivered in fertile soil where there is a prevailing philosophy that is supported by the strategic objectives geminates and delivers bottom-line results. Learning that is void of vision or alignment to the values and objectives of an organization creates frustration and individuals revert to their old ways of doing things.
One Organization that I worked with had the strategic objective to increase Profit Margin on their core business. In the process of reviewing the high- volume accounts we determined that the Gross Profit Margins varied from 8 to 26%. Margins are a function of the selling price and the associated costs that contribute to the product. Hence, the key processes affecting this overall metric included: Sales, Operations, Transportation, Purchasing, and others. Our analysis indicated numerous reasons for the lack of margin consistency but for simplicity of this illustration, we will examine Sales only.
The primary root causes in Sales were due to the way the current business was quoted and Sales unbelief in the validity of the margin data shown in the company dashboards. Senior Management looked at the situation and initiated Corrective Action to try to understand the underlying issues. Sales was included on this team and interviews were conducted to determine the process deficiencies. The interviews yielded suggestions for training that included a Process Review of the inputs and outputs to produce a standardized quotation. Additionally, we discovered that Sales did not understand the differences between Gross and Net Profit Margins and how the data they used for the quotation was being reported to calculate the margins.
After the processes were changed and training was completed, we noticed that future quotes were more consistent and the variation in margins in these accounts improved by 200%. Some companies may have responded to this situation by providing training for all Sales personnel in prospecting, cold calling, follow-up, and understanding pain points that would have never impacted the bottom-line. Targeted training works best when it is aligned to strategic objectives. This training was also impactful because it was immediately applied to the situation at hand.
Common Training Mistakes
- Organizations do not align the training to the Strategic Objectives,
- Input is not sought from those who are involved in the processes under investigation,
- Implementation or application from the training is delayed and,
- Management support for the necessary changes is not forthcoming.
In summary, training initiatives fail for numerous reasons but often it is due to misalignment between the actual training and what is most important to the organization.