While organizational learning and development departments are and absolute must have; it turns out that most managements may not be totally satisfied by the returns on their investments.
It is not important to just have a L&D department but also to clearly define the culture which will guide learning in the org. Here are 10 mistakes you could avoid to get the best RoI from your learning and development initiatives.
- Lack of time and competing priorities – employees are so tied up and overwhelmed with daily tasks and meetings that it becomes increasingly difficult for them to prioritize. Learning and development or training takes a back seat to anything that supports business directly. Immediate and urgent takes precedence over what is important in the long term. You tend to hear employees complaining about their need to work on some urgent tasks for their lack of attendance in training sessions. Even though you would have given enough notice about the impending training. If you find this excuse often in your company then you know learning and development isn’t really a priority for you.
- Lack of motivation – most learning and development initiatives are either not marketed well or you find managers frequently pulling out people from training sessions. This has a direct impact on employee motivation as they start to perceive training to be low priority. Added to that employees fail to see the value or benefit of learning and development initiatives to their personal success. Most training sessions end up being boring as well because of the lack of personal connect and attendees start to leave early or outright skip such sessions.
- Limited budgets – most companies while being aware of the need for continual learning to remain at the cutting edge of business, compromise when it comes to allocating budgets for training. While you find that the number of programs have increased year on year, the budgets somehow remain the same or at times even cut down. Human resource managers struggle to get the requisite budgets from the businesses for implementing training and development. In fact almost all of their energies gets spent on getting approvals leaving them exhausted and demotivated in the process. Very rarely do I find HR managers getting the kind of freedom and authority to initiate learning and development. They end up cutting corners and at times compromise leading to incompleteness and subsequent demotivation of the participant and themselves. It is a vicious cycle.
- Poor timing – “You can’t start digging a well when you are already thirsty”. Many times training is delayed to the extent that it turns out to be more ‘reactive’ than ‘proactive’. We all know that training will help us prepare for the future, however, we undertake programs only when it really starts to hurt our business. I’ve seen companies asking me to conduct urgent ‘communication and cross-cultural skills’ programs after they have lost a client or got a strong feedback. They also ask me to conduct a 1-2 days program to improve language skills. This is ridiculous. How do you expect an employee who has poor communicative ability for all these years to improve in 2 days?
- Training targets and information overload – while it’s good to have targeted training programs but you cannot keep targets for training. That’s what it turns out to be for most human resource managers. Conducting ‘x’ no. of training hours becomes the focus than what is required for the long term. As deadlines for reviews approach, there is a flurry of training activity and in organizations where manager review includes the no. of training hours they have facilitated for their team members, capacity utilization becomes the norm. Employees at times are put through day long programs where there is information overload leading to training fatigue and disinterest.
- More ‘Push’ than ‘Pull’ – when employees are made to attend a series of so-called mandated programs, there is least amount of interest shown. People go through the motions of attending such programs and getting a tick against their training hour checklist. Companies do not invest enough time and resources in marketing programs to create a pull where employees self-nominate for learning initiatives and developmental programs.
- Attempts to make ‘Horses’ fly – You find in organizations there is so much emphasis on role specific training that very little attention is paid as to the ‘developability’ of certain skill sets in employees. Training programs become places where you flog the horse and expect it to fly. You can’t blame the training to have failed in such instances.
- Neglecting the follow through – When there is no follow through or reviews of progress is delayed the effectiveness of any developmental initiative is negated. I’ve in my own experience found that the action plans drawn out with great enthusiasm during the program are kept aside and employees slip back to their daily routines. At times their sponsoring managers negate or respond to request for support with cynicism leading to demotivation amongst fellow team members. You also find that employees are not provided time or a supportive environment where they can practice the lessons learnt leading to poor outcome. Any request for follow through and reviews are postponed in the urgency of the daily tasks that people forget their learnings. We also find that employees resort to implementing parts of action plan so that they don’t have to cut a sorry figure during a review meet; not because they truly cared.
- Over reliance on technology – Sometimes we want to believe that technology will solve all our training problems, but a mobile app or even e-learning authoring tool alone will not guarantee the success of a corporate training program. And selecting technology that doesn’t align with the company’s specific needs can also be a mistake.
- Cost cutting and internal training – While having a large posse of internal trainers definitely helps in cutting costs for hiring outside experts and professionals, it often proves counter-productive. People are far less inclined to listen to their colleagues and are not willing to easily give the internal trainers the pedestal of an expert. Internal trainers in their attempt to please their colleagues are not tough while providing feedback and that effects their ability to coach others. They find it difficult to take an unbiased view and are frequently seen to be pushing the managements agenda in their training. ‘Trust’ is the primary factor they need to constantly fight against. Also, at times there is a feeling that if we ask managers to be coaches and facilitators of learning will save us not just costs but provide the benefit of their experience. We all know that great managers may not always be good coaches.