Stop Wasting Your Development Dollars!

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By: Meredith Masse

Stop Wasting Your Development Dollars!

On average, companies spend anywhere from $4,716 to $12,210 per participant on leadership development. These figures are increasing across the board as leaders recognize that their employees are demanding opportunities to learn and that their companies need future managers and leaders to be ready for the challenge of next-level leadership.  With these massive investments, how can a company be sure its development practices are the most effective? What offers the most bang for the development buck?

First, let’s get the bad news out of the way. Ask any employee in your company what they remember from the last training class they attended. How will they respond? More than likely, they will draw a blank. At best, they may remember a point or two, still a minimal amount of information compared to what was presented, practiced and paid for during the training session. Next, ask them whether or not they have actually applied anything they learned back to their job. More blank stares? And where does that leave the business in terms of having well equipped managers ready to move up the leadership ladder?

Bottom line: traditional training methods are increasingly ineffective in delivering great ROI for the business. Period.

The GOOD news: there is a better way to prepare future leaders. With development tools that support much higher retention and use of new skills and knowledge as well as increased ROI on development investments, employees win and the company wins!

What can you do about it? Consider reevaluating how you create development opportunities to include these three critical elements to achieve that higher ROI:

  1. Redesign long, boring trainings into short-burst, focused learning sessions. Gone are the days the days of long, multiple-day trainings serving oceans of content through a fire hose. Shorter — 2 to 4-hour — learning sessions focused on building just one or two concrete skills at a time won’t overwhelm learners with too much information and will fight against tendencies for distraction, giving participants time to absorb, reflect and apply the focused learning content before the next burst of learning. Combine shorter learning sessions over a period of time to engrain the actual skills necessary to equip future leaders in the company with the know-how necessary to be successful.
  2. Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce. How much do you remember from one-and-done trainings you’ve attended? Studies show that at best 5% and more likely closer to 1% is what you’ve walked away with. And without having reminders and reinforcements over a period of time (4-8 weeks at minimum) following a training, that loss of great content happens very quickly. The key is to reinforce early and often. To be effective, reinforcement activities and messages must be expertly crafted to help guide learners through additional content, increase knowledge retention, practice new skills and drive lasting behavior change. To be clear, great reinforcement does not just repeat session content in smaller pieces, but it builds on that content while remaining focused on the same learning objectives as the in-person or online learning session.
  3. Support participants with course correction in facilitated group coaching sessions. With a highly trained facilitator, group coaching helps to keep learning content and objectives top of mind for participants and drives accountability encouraging them to apply new skills and begin to make targeted behavioral changes. Since the goal of training is performance improvement on the job, report in on what’s working and seek help from their peers and the coach/facilitator on what’s not going as well, they can work through obstacles with support, making behavior changes much more sustainable.

In total, companies spend upwards of $60 billion each year on leadership development (Bersin, 2013). Every company contributing to that tremendous investment knows it needs to be used as wisely as possible, so they can best prepare their people and the organization for a dynamic future. These three critical elements will absolutely support a higher return on development investment over traditional training and build companies’ leadership bench-strength.

But don’t take my word for it. This white paper offers more data to build the business case for shifting leadership development practices, in-depth practical suggestions to support including these three critical elements into those development practices and examples of the business impact you can expect to achieve.


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