There’s no question. Learning in the workplace takes time and money.
You send people to classes or workshops and sometimes – perhaps more than sometimes – nothing much happens. The training organization or some consultant promises results but people come back and soon their performance is about the same as it always was.
It’s easy to blame whoever did the training. But first let’s look a bit farther.
Here are some interesting research results. (Learning Analytics, John R. Mattox II & Mark Van Buren)
- Managers rarely set expectations with learners before they attend development programs. For 75% of organizations expectations are set 25% of the time or less.
- To set expectations, managers need to understand what will be taught in a class or workshop and how learning that would improve the employee’s job performance. Then the manager would need to communicate those two things to the person attending the class. When learners have that information, they are more likely to make connections between work situations and class content.
- After employees attend a class or workshop, only 11% of managers actually hold employees accountable for applying what they learned to their jobs. 44% have little involvement. While 41% simply encourage their employees to apply what they learned.
- With this behavior managers communicate that what the employees learned is only sort of important. Maybe. They’re giving their employees permission to do what they’ve always done instead of improving their performance. This also applies to the next bullet.
- And when it comes to supporting changes in performance, only 22% of managers observe and provide feedback within 90 days after training and only 21% reprioritize daily tasks to emphasize use of what was learned.
Now let’s imagine the manager is not dealing with training. Instead, let’s say that the manager is delegating an assignment to someone. Generally speaking,
- the manager will explain what he or she expects and make sure that the person who is getting the assignment understands the desired outcome.
- The manager will follow-up periodically to check on performance and possibly provide feedback.
- If there is a conflict about priorities, the manager reprioritizes if needed or at least tries to find a solution.
In other words, the manager manages.
Here’s the question: why don’t most managers use their management skills when it comes to learning or training? Managers have far more influence over what their employees do or don’t do than any trainer.
Unless we’re talking about extensive technical training, employees returning from a workshop will have some knowledge and skill but will need practice over time to develop expertise. The trainer can pretty much promise that the employee will leave a class knowing certain things and being able to do certain things. But after that, the trainer is out of the picture. It’s up to the manager and employee.
Summing it up
Managers are responsible for utilization of resources. That means money and people and, depending on the department, other things as well. Managers are probably wasting time and money if they send someone to a workshop and
- The individuals are not ready for it
- They don’t know what the manager wants them to learn
- The manager doesn’t follow up when they return to work.
Many executives and managers don’t hesitate to question the value of training these days. But the real value comes when an employee improves their performance or does something they couldn’t do before.
Ultimately managers are the ones that make that happen by setting clear expectations and following up with assignments that give employees real opportunities to build on the knowledge and skill they learned in a workshop or class.