Do your training efforts drive performance?

Training Success PicDo your training efforts drive performance” by Mckinsey & Company’s Insights & Publications newsletter caught my eye because at it’s core there are 3 fundamental problems that company’s aren’t addressing.

Quite simply, too often training is taking place as an activity without a true north or quantifiable end in mind.

1) ROI: What’s going to be different about the current state vs a future state? When you’re making an investment in training, and or development, you should have a solid objective & key result(s) that you want to see at some point in time after the event has concluded. I prefer to talk about objectives & key results (OKR’s) because by being more story-telling based, they become more significant for employees to understand the right context. That context being that your employer is making an investment in you as a professional, so that in turn you can deliver a higher degree of performance (ROI).

An OKR for training should have both a timeline & a measurable deliverable, both of which can be incremental in order to make it more inspiring & effective. i.e. 10% increase in sales within 60 days, 20% increase within 120 days & 30% within 6 months. Question: do you have both internal & external ROI objectives as a consequence of your training investment?

2) Cascade Planning: Assuming that you have clearly defined & measurable priorities for the year, and most importantly for the quarter, what’s my contribution toward that success? Too often the aspirational part of the business plan, the one that’s most engaging, isn’t quantified and or effectively communicated. I use a one page plan to cascade meaning & inspiration throughout the organization.

As a side note, this also becomes an effective exercise to identify the detractors in your organization that for one reason or another have fallen out of love with your company, and aren’t willing to make peace with whatever cause the rip in the first place. Detractors in an organization are the meaning of “if you’re not with me, you’re against me”, and they will typically take a lot of casualties with them.

Detractors aside, when your OKR’s align with & contribute toward your aspirations, when your measurable priorities align with & contribute toward your OKR’s, and when the activities your teams are executing in any 90 day period align with & contribute toward nailing your measurable priorities through a subset of OKR’s, then you have achieved cascade planning. Question: how is your training activity aligned with your cascade planning?

3) Practical Application: Whether in an automated platform or a live human being, stay away from any solution that doesn’t directly understand how their activity will drive your success. Customer Success has become a popular concept since the birth of SaaS companies like Salesforce.com, but it has been at the epicenter of every role I’ve executed long before Salesforce.com ever existed. When I first took over the education division of Fortune 500’s from 2003 through 2006, one of the first things I did was to remove all “professional” trainers.

From our strategic partner pool I “borrowed” real world people doing real world work in the very clients my company was selling to. Instead of reading from a script, these new breed instructors were delivering content based on practical & immediate applicability, providing workarounds to custom situations, and thus improving our own success metrics as a consequence of improving our customers health first. We bundled a consultative approach to cohorting & identifying OKR’s for our customers, becoming a strategic partner like no other before.

From 1991 to 2000 the same approach was taken at another Fortune 500 company I worked for, there, in addition to our customers success, our own gross margins topped 40%. This approach also had us develop new products based on predictive needs. Question: how is your education platform in-sync with your business priorities & OKR’s?

Summary

Too often metrics / KPI’s are being established without the proper context in mind, in your own company and or departmental silo. i.e. how many of your metrics are linked to your customers success (they overachieving their own metrics, KPI’s & or OKR’s)? Better yet, how is your training (first & foremost) focused on driving your customers success as a consequence? Second, how is your training having a cascade effect within your organization so that everyone is on the same page? And third, how are you measuring ROI both internally & externally?

Whether you’re a Fortune 500 or a 10 person start-up, the fundamentals are the same, the main difference being that in a larger organization there’s an HR team aligned (hopefully) with each business units OKR’s, whereas in a smaller organization each business unit / functional lead is also an acting HR consultant.

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