You’ve invested in leadership training. Now how do you ensure the ROI?
“Don’t bother me with this crap. I don’t believe in leadership training. It’s a complete waste of time. It’s nothing against you as the new Training Director. I get that I have to work with you in some way. If you MUST talk training, please work through Joe (one of my directors), he’s the most touchy-feely of my direct reports, I’m sure he’ll be nice to you.”
Yikes. Those were the words I heard from Beth, one of the Presidents I was asked to support, in my new role as training director at Verizon.
The truth is, I appreciated her candor. She’s not alone. A lot of senior leaders are skeptical of training ROI.
“You want me to take my people out of the field, where they could be serving customers and bringing in new business for theory and games? No thank you.”
And I get it. No one wants that kind of training. I’ve certainly been to my fair share of flavor-of-the-month training, and have my own bookshelf of binders full of good ideas, not implemented.
I’ve also attended great training that helped me change the game.
I imagine you have too. What makes the difference?
5 Ways to Make Leadership Training Stick and Increase ROI
Training is only valuable when it leads to sustained behavior change and improved business results.
Great leadership training:
- is a process, not an event.
- is closely aligned with strategic business initiatives.
- inspires managers with new ideas and tangible ways to improve the business
- creates long-term change in individual behavior and business results.
I’m grateful for Beth’s challenge in the first few weeks of a job that was to become a formative role, both in my Verizon career and now, running my own leadership development company.
I was sure that Beth couldn’t hate training that truly made her people and results stronger. She just hated bad training. Who doesn’t? (P.S. Beth later promoted me into my most significant operations role at Verizon where I reported directly to her).
Here are 5 ways to ensure a stronger ROI and to make training stick:
1. Design the training on business outcomes
Don’t start training until you have a strong vision of what will be different as a result. What behaviors are you looking to change? How will that impact your MIT (Most Important Thing– strategic goals)? Don’t stop at “We need stronger team leaders.” Go deeper. Get specific. Work with a training partner who understands your business and who can build a program to achieve exactly what you need.
2. Build programs that include the participant’s manager
Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Be sure you have real buy-in from the level above. You don’t just want conceptual support. Managers need insights and specifics about what is being trained and how they can best support it. We love to do an executive briefing session before our programs so leaders understand the ROI, are prepared with strategic questions, and have a clear path to support their teams’ learning and application.
3. Include teams in the implementation
It’s scary for people to have their managers go off to training and then come back and feel like an experiment as the manager implements four new ideas without any explanation. You’ve probably lived through a manager who brought back a new idea, used it for a week, then forgot about it. That’s frustrating for the team and the manager loses credibility. Be sure your managers know how to talk with their teams about what they are doing differently and why. The best leadership training has an ROI that cascades beyond the manager being trained.
4. Deliver training in digestible learning over time
You can’t learn to lead in one half-day workshop. Even if you have a limited budget, find creative ways to build programs that combine learning with practice, reflection, and feedback. We love to leverage new technology that incorporates simple micro-learning push-technology to learners’ phones via text message between sessions to inspire and reinforce real-world application.
5. Welcome new ideas, insights, and help them take the next step
Great leadership training is bound to get your managers fired up with new ideas. Listen to their insights and find ways say “Yes” to what might happen next. When they come back with ideas to improve the business, listen. If it’s something you’ve tried before, invite them to the next step. Rather than “We tried that, it doesn’t work” you might try: “In the past when we’ve tried that, we ran into an issue with X. I’d love for you to think about how we might overcome that and implement your idea.”
How do you ensure your leadership training creates real behavior change and lasting results?