It Does Exist! Uncovering the ROI on Leadership Training

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By: Susan Ruhl

When considering improving your employee’s leadership skills often we think “Send them to training.” It’s as if leaders miraculously emerge from the training room changed forever. Realistically though, what really happens after training? It should come as no surprise that simply providing classroom-based leadership training is basically a waste of everyone’s time and the organization’s money. Adults simply do not change their behaviors from one class.  In fact, on average, only 10% of training actually transfers to the job! (Smith-Jentsch et al., 2001)

To be effective, training must be approached as continuous development. (Rodsevich, 2015) On average, it takes adults over 60 days to change behaviors and even then it requires reinforcement and repetition.  What then, does that look like and is it realistic to incorporate in your organization?

Here is the bad news: continuous development takes time, effort and follow-through.

And the good news? There are a few key strategies that you can use to make continuous development a reality in your organization AND, it pays off.

Expect employees’ to drive their own development.
Continuous development shouldn’t fall solely on the shoulders of HR, Learning and Development and managers. Influence your employees to take ownership of their own development. Not only does this take some of the pressure and time-commitment off your hands, when employees are committed to their own goals and development, they are more likely to change (Locke & Latham, 2002). Utilize technology, such as development apps, to set-up automatic reminders or prompts for employees to give and receive feedback. Use a system that facilitates employees’ initiatives and efforts to develop themselves.

Make it a habit.
Habits are easier to form than you might think. You can help your employees realize this. For example, at GE they are using smartphone apps to allow employees to share voice and text feedback, exchange documents related to development efforts, and even send handwritten notes. The overarching purpose of the apps is to create frequent and meaningful exchanges between employees to facilitate their growth (Baldassarre & Finken, 2015).

Ensure development is clearly relevant to the job.
A key component of successful development is that employees are motivated to use what they learn on the job (Colquitt, LePine & Noe, 2000). When development suggestions are unrelated to issues and problems faced on the job, the development doesn’t take hold. When employees can’t see a clear connection between development activities and their daily responsibilities, they aren’t likely to apply new knowledge or skills in their work. Sometimes irrelevant feedback can come from anonymous peer feedback. As has been seen at Amazon, anonymity in development systems is not always the best because it allows others to abuse the system and be overly critical of their peers (Impraise Blog, 2016).

With these 3 strategies, your workforce will be on their way to successful and effective continuous development.

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