Learning professionals and business managers don't think through the accountability inside the learning processIn part 1 of this series, we described the learning phases in an organization. Here’s how learning programs often come about. A manager notices a problem. Let’s say it’s a spike in complaints about customer service. The manager approaches the learning department and asks for customer service training. The manager then sends employees to training with high hopes. After training, the manager expects employees to return to the job able to do their jobs better. Learning professionals often take the request from the manager at face value. They create a program and then expect the students to take newfound knowledge and apply it on the job. Trainers deliver the content, hope it sticks, and then send the employee back to the business unit managers to deal with. Problem solved.

If everyone has done their job, why is up to 85% of training scrapped?

Trainers think their job is done because they have designed and delivered the training to the student. Business managers think their job is done because they sent their employees to training. So, if everyone has done their job why are the following stats happening? A 2004 study found that slightly less than 20 percent of participants never apply what they learn in a training program back on the job. Another 65 percent try what they learned but revert back to their old ways. This makes for a whopping 85 percent who scrap learning. More recently, a 2014 Conference Executive Board (CEB) whitepaper reported that in the average organization, 45 percent of all learning delivered ends up not being applied.  Those statistics are horrendous. Stakeholders—both learning professionals and business managers—do not recognize their own accountability or limits in learning success.

Where does accountability fall in the learning process?

The learning professional has control of and should be accountable for the following:
  • Create learning programs that generate a new ability (knowledge, skill, or attitude) in the student.
  • Create learning that identifies the specific job behaviors that must change to improve job performance.
  • Show how that learning translates to actions taken while on the job.
  • Ensure the business metrics (key performance indicators) that will change when job behavior changes are identified, documented, and incorporated into the design of their program.
The business unit manager has control of and should be accountable for the following:
  • Tell the learning professional the improvements in employee behavior that are needed.
  • Identify the business metric to use to determine the success of the learning.
  • Ensure students understand the expectation that learning will be applied when they return to the job.
  • Ensure the job environment (time, systems, processes, recognition, manager expectations) aligns to support the new learning.
This seems fairly straightforward, but both groups—learning professionals and business unit managers—miss the mark all too often.

If it’s so clear, what’s the problem?

Learning professionals have trouble speaking the language of business. Business managers have trouble speaking the language of learning. Like the customer service example given above, business managers typically approach the training team because of a perceived business need. “There’s a customer service problem. Give us training on customer service.” Business managers think in terms of performance and typically request training based on the subject they think they need training on. Learning pros think in terms of learning objectives and communicate with the manager in these terms. Fortunately, both groups understand the need to improve behavior. The outcome envisioned by these two stakeholders in terms of behavior should be agreed upon in the Examining/Planning phases of learning. Accountability for supporting behavior change in each phase should be understood. Metrics are the keys to getting both sides to speak the same language. Focus on the metrics that need to change and then the behaviors needed to create change will help smooth out this process. We’ll delve into this deeper in part 3 of this series. Do your business managers and training professionals speak different languages? Do they understand where accountability lies in the learning process? Contact us at eParamus. We’d love to help get everyone on the same page. Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD. I’d love to know more about your training challenges.
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