I've been fortunate over the years to serve thousands of people attending programs that I was either sponsoring or instructing. While the vast majority of my experiences working with people have been positive, too often I've seen good intentions morph into bad execution. Many of these can be prevented and I challenge you to avoid these 6 ways you will waste training dollars:
1. Not willing to participate yourself
If only I had a dollar for every time I've been told by a group of employees that their manager is the one who should really be in the training. It's striking how rarely managers show up in the classroom with people they've sent to training. Unfortuantely, sometimes it's the case that the manager was the one who most needed the class.
Even better, tell people you're coming to the training with them and then don't show up. People love that.
Is the training truly beneth you? Do you know it all already? Fine. Keep it to yourself. You still need to show up when you ask your entire team to do so. It demonstrates that you take the process seriously and it also ensures that you get on the same page with what they are learning. Oh, and you might actually discover something too.
2. Using a training class to give feedback
Sadly, this is a common tactic by managers who are too uncomfortable giving people honest feedback. Instead of giving Mike candid feedback about his mediocre customer service skills and have a conversation about how he can correct the issue, Mike gets told nothing but suddenly gets recommended for a customer service training program.
This almost never works. The person rarely gets the message and the company has only succeeded in wasting money since Mike doesn't take the training as seriously as he would if he knew why he was there. And, on the rare occasion when the message is received, it only makes the situation worse since Mike shows up resentful that you wouldn't give feedback to his face (hard to blame him).
Training is what you do after you've given feedback…not before.
3. Doing nothing to be flexible during training
I've seen leaders do heroic things for their teams over the years to ensure they could get the most out of training: clear the company schedule for the class, reassign projects to others, change work shifts to allow for learning, and much more.
Unfortunately, the opposite also happens. Followers who are already stretched to the absolute maximum in their daily responsibilities are suddenly sent to training and no accomodation in made to ease their workload. Even if you can't make accomodations, at the very least acknowledge people for the extra time investment you are asking them to make and thank them formally for doing so. This costs nothing and takes moments, but I've seen it forgotten so many times.
Sure, you can “require” someone to show up for training physically, but not mentally. If they aren't there mentally, it's a waste of time and money for everyone.
4. Sending one person to training and having them come back to train everyone else
This is almost always done as a cost-saving measure. There are multiple reasons why this is generally a bad idea. First, I have never seen a case where an employee comes back and does anywhere as good a job as the professional who taught (and perhaps designed) the class.
Second, it's almost always the case that the “training” that happens when the one empowered employee returns looks a lot like a 5-minute summary at the next staff meeting. Even if everyone is paying full attention to their colleague (doubtful) they miss all the details and any exercises that were done during the class to reinforce new behaviors.
Finally, even when the training is fantastic and the employee has a career-changing experience, the minute they go back into a work environemnt where everyone else is still doing things the previous way, they quickly turn go back to old habits. Culture is powerful in your organization, and it almost always defaults back to the majority. If the majority of people need the training, the majority of the people should be in the training.
5. Failing to provide practical application opportunities
Why would you send someone to a training program on presention skills and then never give them a chance to give presentations? I don't know either, but I've seen it happen several times.
Yes, it is first and foremost the responsibility of each person to drive their own professional development. That said, you bear the responsibility as a leader to also provide opportunities to apply what has been learned, especially if the organization is investing in their new skill development through training. Unless they use it, they'll lose it. Application opportunities should be there during or shortly after the training process.
6. Going silent
The average manager stops thinkng about employee training the minute after the training program starts. Once people are in training, they think their job is done and are onto other things.
This is the point where your work is just beginning. Regular conversation between the participant(s) and you should be happening both before, during and after the training. You want to discuss training goals, application opportunities, concerns that come up, alignment with professional development, and what they are learning in the classroom. Good training providers will support and encourage this too.
Each person in training is being challenged with new ideas and different ways to look at the world and your business. The creative potential to innovate may never be higher. Sit down and discuss how they are processing what's being learned. Take this opportunity to think differently. If you don't, your competitors will be only too happy to do this for your former employee after you've already made the financial investment.
Avoiding these six things doesn't ensure training success, but you greatly reduce the risk of wasting your training dollars.