Businesses spend billions of dollars each year in corporate training -- $70 billion in the United States in 2013 alone -- but that doesn’t mean the investment is paying dividends. A training program that is poorly thought out can be counterproductive by taking workers away from the office while failing to disseminate useful information. Avoid common barriers to effective training to get the most out of your investment in workforce development.
It’s to the workers benefit to learn new skills -- but if they don’t relate to business goals and objectives, it’s probably not worth the expense for the company, or the time the training takes employees away from their desks. Linking the training directly to business needs and employee development-plan objectives can be the key towards getting employee buy-in. If training doesn’t relate to employee duties, or if an employee doesn't anticipate using the information once the training ends, it’s unlikely to have a lasting effect.
Many companies make training a required part of employee development, ensuring that employees receive the required information concerning ethical issues, diversity training or corporate-specific procedures. If managers don't place an emphasis on that, however, or treat it as a waste of time, employees likely will follow their lead and adopt an indifferent attitude toward those courses. In addition, spending on training tends to track the economy -- when times get tough, the funds for workforce development tend to be at risk. A company that treats training as a disposable resource doesn't encourage its workforce to spend any time towards it.
Corporate trainers generally allow for frequent breaks that allow participants to touch base with the office as needed. If the classroom’s collective mind is on their in-box instead of the PowerPoint, however, the training is likely to be ineffective. Trainers have to demand a commitment from participants to remain engaged when the class is in session, and avoid generating a situation in which trainees are constantly parading in and out of class thanks to ringing cellphones.
Companies can decrease the odds that their training will be ineffective if they follow up and measure indications of success. Judging a training program's effectiveness simply by the number or percentage of employees who completed it, for example, turns a training program into a box-checking exercise. A company needs to determine beforehand what constitutes success for a training program -- for example, the percentage of employees who use that training in their work, or certification exams passed -- and then measure the results based on pre-established benchmarks and standards.