We all instinctively know that learning and development within the corporate space is ‘supposed to’ make a difference. Yet, far too often the programs (not necessary the people) fail due to the following reasons. Some of these reasons are structural, but too many times it is just poor project management.
A primary reason many programs and courses fail is because there is no “Accountability”. Learning and Development departments think that they provide accountability by counting the number of seats in the program, or talking about how and why this program is valuable. But they fail in the correlation of the program to the participant job or position.
If accountability exists, then the second most prevalent reason programs fail would be evident. Most programs lack any type of “Monitoring”. I see many programs that do not have any requirements on monitoring the participants. Monitoring is not just watching the student sit in the program, and do some exercise. Monitoring is an actively engaging effort that is time-consuming, yet highly valuable. Monitoring is done by everyone involved: it involves the student, the direct supervisor and the HR department.
The work is hard in this arena and yet the payoff is highest. It is a shame that far too many Learning & Development groups miss this. Monitoring is more than just happy sheets. It needs to include pre, mid or post program testing and a 30-60-90 day post program implementation of the concepts taught in a course and/or program.
“Implementation” is the third area in which many programs fail. HR departments create comprehensive programs that no one seems to ever complete. Learning paths are not just something to create, but HR departments need to insure that staff follow-up to completion. What use is having staff take the introductory programs and then ‘get too busy’ to complete the balance of the curriculum? The value to the program creation and completion is to shorten the time that it takes for an employee with limited knowledge to evolve into a fully functional member of the team.
The fourth reason many programs fail is that they allow the employee to ‘lose focus’ and effectiveness. Courses, learning paths and programs need to be highly coordinated, delivered in a meaningful way, and continued in a reasonable time frame. I have seen way too many courses cram too much information into a short period of time. Even the best of us can only effectively absorb new information for only certain periods of time. Seeing staff subjected to nine-hour programs for multiple days is catastrophic. Learning levels drop off so quickly in the late period that they become useless. Repeated days of long learning hours make many programs non-effective for both the participants as well as the energy level of the instructor.
The converses of a lengthy delivery are programs that are so short that no material can be delivered. It takes time for participants to get into the groove of a program. Unless the participant is fully prepared, offering an extremely short program is ineffective for anything but a procedural program.
The fifth reason many programs fail is the ‘short term feel good’ aspect of too many programs. Since when does a company offer programs that do little for the effectiveness of an employee? Who approves these programs anyway? Corporate learning and development is exactly that: ‘Learning and Development’. The programs offered should meet those basic criteria at the development stage. Why waste your development resources on programs that offer nothing towards the corporate goals? Feel good programs are for the summer picnic and winter party. Aside from those events, all of the training programs should have a specific objective and criteria for delivery and value to the firm.
This brings us to the sixth reason why many programs fail. I am cheekily going to refer to this as the ‘what then’ part of many programs. Program manager, line managers, stake-holders too often have a ‘what then’ approach to corporate training. All these stakeholders know that they need programs, but have no foresight as to how to continue and elevate the programs that their staff attends. Once the staff have taken the introduction programs, where do they go next to develop deeper and more meaningful skills in various areas.
Ideally, all training programs should be completely aligned with the corporate objective.
This alignment and high correlation provides the biggest return on corporate training, insuring that what is delivered has relevancy, value and effectiveness to both the employee as well as to the company. By providing and developing programs that not only support the corporate objectives, but continuing these programs by delving deeper skills with the company’s staff, most companies and their employees will see a greater return on both the personal and corporate investments.
This list of six constraints is often the reason many corporate training programs fail. This is not an indictment of the programs, but more of a road map to the bumps, potholes and log jams that many programs encounter in their development and delivery. Avoiding these issues can only make many programs better and more valuable.