At a time when the need for new skills is the only constant, companies need to be continuously enhancing their workforce. But how can they make sure they’re getting the most out of any training activities? While a certain amount of trial and error is to be expected for any initiative, there are best practices that can get training efforts off on the right foot – as well as key pitfalls that should be avoided.
Pitfall #1: “One and done” mentality
Perhaps the most common pitfall is when organizations have a “one and done” mentality when it comes to training. The attitude of some companies is: “Alright, we’ve given you some training, you should be good to go now.” With this approach, what was learned never makes its way through the rest of the organization, basically rendering it useless.
What’s needed instead is continuous training that maps to the business needs, more importantly goals and/or KPIs, of the organization and ensures that the skill base of the organization is growing to keep pace with the current business environment. Something that by definition is so dynamic cannot effectively be tackled in a “one and done” fashion.
Pitfall #2: Not answering “What’s in it for me?”
Are your employees clear on how the training they’re receiving actually applies to their daily responsibilities? Too many companies fail to address the question many employees will have: “What’s in it for me?”
As a result, training unfolds something like this: Employees get a day off from work to sit in a room with 20 other people. At the end of the session, they walk out and think, “Well, that was a long day, and I’m not really sure how much of that applied to me.”
The lesson for organizations? Clearly define the purpose and intended benefit upfront so that employees understand why they’re there, what the concrete benefit of the training is, and what the impact on the organization will be. In defining that impact, it helps to use a micro lens as well as a macro lens, showing how the training will positively impact not just the individual, but the larger team or department, and the organization as a whole.
Pitfall #3: No executive involvement
When executives and higher level management aren’t physically present at training activities, an undeniable message is sent as a result of their absence. The professionals who are present at the training start to think to themselves: “Well, if this isn’t important enough for them to be here, why do I need to be here?”
Executive presence and modeling matters, and for training to be successful, employees need to see that the higher-ups are taking this training seriously and making it a priority in their own calendars, not just mandating it for others.
Pitfall #4: No promotional pathway
It’s all fine and well to give employees training in a particular area, but then how do you allow the employee to leverage that skill set within the organization? Pitfall #4 occurs when training isn’t embedded into the promotional pathway within the organization.
Now that someone has picked up new skills in AI, for example, or digital marketing, how will you allow or encourage them to step up into a new role and put those skills to use?
This issue takes on outsized importance in an environment marked by an ongoing war for talent, where employee retention is a top issue. According to recent research, a whopping 49% of employees leave their organizations due to lack of opportunities for career advancement – and in many cases, that turnover is because the skills they have are not being put to use or they are not developing new skills for the future.
Pitfall #5: Training mismatch
Just as it’s important for companies to give employees a pathway to put their new skills to work, it’s even more important for organizations to make sure they’re cultivating the right skills in the first place.
Getting someone trained on robotics is great – but not if there’s no practical way to put that skill into practice within your organization. Companies should make sure they’re putting in place needs-based training that addresses a deficiency within the organization that needs to be addressed to advance the business.
The responsibility falls on upper management. They should have their finger on the pulse of their direct reports, identifying critical skills gaps. HR can certainly help with identifying a good training partner, but senior management should be the ones to identify where the gaps are and then collaborate with HR to move forward with addressing those gaps via training.
Winging it won’t work
What all of this speaks to is a need for organizations to take a strategic and mindful approach to their training efforts. The company needs to be aware of what they’re doing around training and why. At a time when workers are demanding more training, getting it wrong isn’t an option. Dodging these pitfalls will help make sure companies get it right and get the most out of their training efforts.