Returns on Training Investments Aren’t Automatic…3

People-development converts payroll costs to asset-investment

2015-09-18 16.13.10Post 3: After explaining his preparation strategy for training initiatives, Dan told Brenda the next step was actually sending the team to get the knowledge. Shortcutting the detail, he skipped to the part that drove home the ROI story. He was determined to overcome her reluctance and get her sign-off on the funding for his supervisors’ coaching training.

“This is where lots of leaders drop the ball,” Dan grinned. “After they learn the rules in class, I make sure they actually have the skills to play the game. Sometimes they start by practicing a bit in class, but most of the time, they need a safe place to practice in the real world. Safe means they can make and correct mistakes, ask questions, get feedback from others who have done it successfully: push the buttons & kick the tires without getting in trouble. I brainstorm with my leaders, and we do the best we can to provide that opportunity. I find that people are much more willing to adopt a new habit if they have just a bit of confidence and know where to go if they get stuck.

“For a short time we do spot observations, and then I ensure strong, consistent measures are in place – specifically on the new skill. It’s not enough to look at their overall performance when the new skill is only a small part of it. We don’t do this for long; only until we feel the skill has been adopted. Sometimes we make it a game or contest, depending on the skill and difficulty.”

Brenda had started taking notes, “Dan, last night I looked at your teams’ performance stats: pretty impressive. Combined with hearing your approach, I realize I judged you inaccurately; sign your supervisors up for the coaching training.”

Dan sat on the edge of his chair, “Thanks; you know, lots of people think like you did.”

“Yes, but not so many managers take the initiative you’ve taken to do something about our perceptions. Out of curiosity, how will you apply your strategy to your supervisors’ coaching? That’s a little different from concrete task and process training, isn’t it?”

“A little,” Dan sat back, eager to share his plan. “For as long as these leaders have reported to me, I’ve been using the coaching concepts they will learn in this class. In the last month, I’ve been identifying the concepts as I used them, so they are experiencing the value as learners. Two have already started trying them with their employees. So they are eager to learn.  We’ve already discussed how we’ll cement their skills when they get back from training:

  • In their weekly meetings with me, they’ll share their plan for any complex coaching they have coming up, so they can confidently incorporate their new skills. They know I will ask to sit quietly in a few employee one-on-ones and observe as they coach.
  • For the following week, we’ll keep that employee on our agenda to review how the actual conversation went.
  • Then I’ll move that coaching situation out one month, and in that weekly meeting, we’ll discuss any progress made by the employee.
  • Measuring their usage of the new tools is built into these follow-up sessions because the coaching concepts are integral to the employee progress.

“Sounds like you’ve thought it out at least. I hope it works!” Brenda liked harder data, but she knew that coaching wasn’t an easily measured science.”

“It has to work,” Dan said as he stood up to go. “In about four months, our worlds will get crazier, and these supervisors will need to be ready to handle some challenging coaching without much hand-holding from me. Brenda, I’m really grateful that I was able to convince you to let me prepare them. I’m confident about the return my teams will see from your investment.”

Reality: Training classes alone are never enough to drive returns. Operational leaders must partner to ensure returns on the time, funding and change investments required to apply new learning.


  • Leaders, who are not familiar enough with training content to coach and ensure employee application is correct, cannot expect to see a return on the time they sacrificed employees from production to attend training.
  • Safe practice environments are the only option for attempting complex learning that could negatively impact customers if practiced in live situations.
  • Much of the “safe” practice and application to ensure ROI can happen in a training environment, but only if the investment of time and leadership involvement is supported.
  • Company training groups or learning professionals should be key partners in helping operations leaders understand their part of the learning puzzle.

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