By now, you already know that your people are probably your greatest asset. The better skilled and capable they are, the better results your organization can achieve, even while holding all other inputs constant.
For learning leaders, the challenge is to design training and development programs that scale effectively. As you might know already, this is much easier said than done. The first problem to confront is the fact that the training needs of each functional division or unit within a business might differ significantly. This means that the most effective training and development programs must be designed to accommodate micro-level needs.
However, as you design training and development plans to accommodate micro-level needs, they tend to lose some degrees of uniformity and organization-wide relevance. This means that scaling these programs across a growing organization can then become a challenge for learning leaders. In this article, we will discuss some useful tips that will enable you to surmount this challenge.
Common Pitfalls in Scaling Training and Development Programs
Having to accommodate micro-level training needs is not the only challenge for designing and implementing a training plan. There are a few common reasons why these plans may fail, as enumerated below:
Not Having a Training Roadmap
While this may seem elementary, it is worth emphasizing that it must be meticulously planned for training and development to be effective. A roadmap or blueprint for your training and development plans helps to outline your training end goals, your current training gaps, and the strengths and weaknesses of your human resource base.
Not Starting with the Right Talent
Sometimes, training and development plans won’t be enough. One common reason why training and development programs may not work can be traced to failures in recruiting. Starting with a pool of less talented or less driven human resources might render even the best training and development plan ineffective and unscalable.
The importance of making sure that you scale your business with the right human resources is underscored by McKinsey’s report, which shows that just having the right team at work is enough to increase productivity by up to 800%.
Wrong Hierarchical Structure
When it comes to scaling training and development, the structure of the business is a crucial factor. Flat organizational hierarchies have proven to be unwieldy at scale and would make scaling a training and development plan very tricky. This may be so because innovation tends to be met with micro-resistance and often needs to be forced, encouraged, or otherwise implemented from top-down.
Instead of attempting to scale a training plan through a flat hierarchy, an organization structure that allows for degrees of decentralization within the locus of a controlling center might make it easier to scale a training and development plan. However, you must take into consideration the diverse training and development needs that exist across the organization.
Insufficient Financial Support
Scaling in all its forms tends to require healthy finances. One area where many learning leaders fail might be by failing to budget for their training and development plans adequately. In many cases, too, under budgeting may be the result of other key Stakeholders simply not seeing the importance of training and development programs. Therefore, learning leaders must take care to ensure that the benefits of training and development programs can be communicated in terms of return on investment.
So What Steps Should You Take in Designing a Training and Development Plan that Scales Well?
Now that you know what pitfalls to avoid, the emphasis should now be on what steps to achieve your goals. This is easily achievable following the outline below:
Accurate, clear plans, provide you with goals and objectives to target and help you identify the resources that you will need, etc. Using resources like the Microsoft Certification Path from Microsoft can act as a useful tool in your planning process. Also, consider partnering with an accredited learning provider. LLPA members offer a great variety of learning content, tools and solutions at scale in multiple languages across multiple countries or regions.
Measure the Results
Data collection is a crucial step to take in designing training programs for scale. This is because data shows what is working and what isn’t, and if there is one thing you want to avoid, it is to replicate errors at scale. While the measurement of results is vital, the process must begin with accurately tracking employees’ capabilities and performance even before any training programs are rolled out.
Seek Proof of Concept
Try out your training plan in a small pilot to see if it works and how. If you follow the previous step of measurement, you will have a pretty good idea of the likely strengths and weaknesses of your training plan long before you roll it out at scale.
Include Relevant Training as Part of the Onboarding Process
Offering new employees some early opportunities to partake in the training and development program will provide multiple advantages. Firstly, you will not have to worry about an employee leaving you right after you have provided them with training opportunities, as fresh employees will not likely leave after such a short period.
More importantly, the earlier you provide training and development opportunities, the more you can avoid placing some strain on the organization by trying to carry out wholescale training and development at a subsequent point. By including training and development in the onboarding process, you can also predict which new employees are suitable or not.
Acquire Unit-Level Buy-In
While the drive must flow from the top down for the sake of uniformity and consistency, culture and values are genuinely enforced at the unit-level. Therefore, for a training and development plan to work, unit-level leaders must be made to buy into these programs and become their principal drivers over time.
Measure, Eliminate, Reinforce
Just as the process must begin with effective measurement and data analysis, it must be periodically followed up with objective analyses to determine what is working and what may need improvement. There will be abundant data available by this point to make the measurement and analysis process easy and relevant.
Using your data, measure results, eliminate inefficiencies and reinforce your training plan elements that are working.
Incorporate Digital Technology
While corporate learning initiatives have traditionally been classroom-based, the rapid advancement of internet technology means that this is not only unnecessary today, but maybe inefficient and costly in the context of scale. Online training programs are easy to use and provide a high degree of flexibility. For instance, all learners across a vast organization will be able to access the same training materials, possibly on their own schedule. In contrast, within the conventional classroom setting, learners would have to take some time off work, which is not feasible at scale.
Platforms like Skills Academy for Business offer organizations a company-branded portal with high-level back-end reporting to help keep track of skilling trends within the organization. It is also a very effective solution to augment your training plan due to its bite-sized modality design.
How to Measure the Effectiveness of a Training and Development Program
One thing that has been reiterated throughout this article is the need for effective and periodic measurement. Here are four ideas for testing the effectiveness of the plan, as well as acquiring the data needed for measurement and analysis:
- Periodic Testing
- Applied Learning Projects
- Individual and Group Focus Interviews
- Certification Exams
Whatever your goals and the nature of your organization, training and development programs need to be scalable to be effective. While the need for some degree of flexibility in considering the needs of individual departments is required, this can complicate a training program’s scalability. Learning leaders faced with such challenges may simply apply the tips discussed in this article.