It is essential to help employees with their developmental footprints
The training calendar must have had very honorable origins. Some well meaning CHRO must have realized that in the absence of a documented plan, some trainings were not done or perhaps the stakeholders were not aware of the annual plan so they had challenges in attending these programs. Eventually I think it came to a stage when the program began to represent the buffet spread of a business hotel. You like it on day one. However, if you are staying in the hotel for 10 days, you begin to loathe the buffet by day 3 or 4.
Let me share some of the versions I saw in some organizations:
1. Stealth version: You have never seen this mystical calendar. Your boss or HOD also may not have. One fine day she gets an email from HR pushing her to send someone since they don't have enough participants for their program on "Communication Skills". You get an email from your boss informing you that you have been nominated for this program and that you should attend. Now we are not sure what your boss thought. Whether you have improvement-worthy communication skills or whether you are the only one she can spare (both are bad options. You know this only happens in other departments, and that in this case she is sending her brightest so you can improve upon your already superlative communication prowess!). Somehow the date will always manage to clash with some important (urgent?) work. But you look forward to getting away for two days and the lunch which is always better than the stuff they dole out at canteen.
2. Bored employees club: This organization has 20% of its employees responsible for huffing and puffing and moving the system. The balance 80% cheer away from their workstations and give complete moral support to the 20%. And the training calendars are published! So depending on who is free on the given day, some of these 80% employees present a case to their very busy manager on why they should attend this program. The manager has no time to really think and he cannot afford to spare anyone from the 20% huffers and puffers anyway. So these employees use this as a getaway and enjoy the 2 days break. Then they come back and tell the 20% that they missed this excellent program. And that the samosas were excellent! These organizations also have 80% of their training programs in last 20% of the year so 100% of training budget is utilized!
3. Copy-Paste: Then there are organizations who do a training needs identification during the PMS process. They also have a Training Calendar. Now someone misses a small detail: linking them. So the organization either operates in a Stealth Mode or in the Bored Employees Club Mode. The employee who worked on filling her training needs or the manager who identified the training needs of her employees: at the beginning of the next year they do a copy-paste of the previous year's training needs. Knowing fully well that the PMS process is primed only to produce a magical number that will determine the increment and who has the time for all these developmental discussions anyway!
When you talk to people about L&D, questions around ROI emerge. And I ask if the very fundamentals are in place?!
Organizations need to invest in defining the DNA of the organization. It is possible that the L&D programs may become a checklist and a good-to-have-and-talk-about. What are you trying to work on? Have the Functional and Behavioral Competencies been defined clearly? Did you engage in a construct of the competency framework that involved different layers of managers, and one that has been cascaded thoroughly across the organization? Do people understand the competencies and the behavioral inflexion points that they need to transit as they grow?
Invest in arriving at the list of employees who will undertake this journey. For a good ROI, this transcends beyond creating a 9 box grid of Performance and Potential. It should also target a set of roles through well-constructed career ladders. The organization and the employee must both be clear what role is the employee undertaking this journey for? We have seen organizations develop people to fill time or to meet learning hour KPIs. At the end of the progam when the employee asks about the next steps, we are lost. We do not know how to use the learning. And learning decay sets in. When people do not use and access the memory representation they have formed, the memory shall decay. At Zydus, we rely on the theory of the “Working Memory” where a complex task is alternated with the encoding of “to-be-remembered-items”. This theory gives a lot of emphasis on active practise of information. We further emphasise that this learning must be with a purpose. People learn better when they know where a certain input shall be used. So future-role clarity is very important to ensure that the learning exercise transitions from an activity to an investment.
We all understand that different roles will have, within the competency framework, pronounced needs of some competency elements. You must map these essential competencies against the learning opportunities for the employee. Invest in good Assessment Centres. A class room training is not often sufficient. Are you designing formative experiences and application workshops that will create immersive experiences for the participants to go back to their workplace and practice what they have learnt? Will they get and give feedback? Will they bring back their learning partners chosen from outside the training batch who will be working with them in creating these experiences? Who will witness the needle move? Do you really believe that you will teach Communication Skills in 2 days?
It is essential to help employees with their developmental footprints. Try to find patterns of competency gaps at a team level. The HR team needs to identify patterns of the weak elements in the framework in various teams. Often, leaders work with their team in a flavoured manner. It gives the team a certain behavioral pattern. The entire teams should be taken through an assessment journey so that clear patterns emerge and gaps at a competency level can be identified so that organizations can create an a-la-carte menu designed to address the competency framework.
I strongly believe that the L&D department has to take a fresh look at how training programs are designed and delivered. I strongly believe that people deserve to gain from formative experiences that must be carefully designed through conversations. Let people see the needle move. Let them experience the full impact of a dish designed by the chef after talking to them, understanding their choices, allergies, preferences. The result, as you will experience, will create hunger for more!