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Today, we’re welcoming a guest and friend to the blog – Jane Gentry! Read on to learn more about why you’re training might not be working!

This is Why Your Training Doesn’t Work

I left yet another meeting last week where the executive wanted to schedule a training class to solve a development problem. The repetition of that shortsightedness frustrates me: and, I know I’m not alone.

I’m a fan of training. It has been an important part of my business over the years. But, there is a reason that the organizational term is Learning and Development and not Learning. Learning on its own is useless. It is nothing more than content delivery. If this was all it took to change behavior and create superheroes, then I’d giving Superwoman a run for her money because of the 120 books I read last year. Alone learning is interesting. With Development, it is powerful. Let me explain.

Only 10-20% of the impact from training can be attributed 
to the quality of content and instruction.

— Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff 
Professor Emeritus, Western Michigan University

Development is where behavior change happens. It is comprised of multiple activities outside the classroom. Things like:

  • Stretch assignments
  • Being on a cross-functional team
  • Doing role play
  • Teaching the team a skill
  • Getting coaching
  • Representing the organization externally
  • Continuous bites of practice
  • Participating on an advisory board
  • A rotational assignment
  • Making a presentation to senior leadership
  • Building a strategy for your team
  • Becoming a mentor

And, the responsibility for this type of development lies at the feet of front line managers. You are likely surprised that I’m saying this – because if statistics don’t lie, your manager isn’t doing this. If you are in sales, she is likely on you about your numbers. If you aren’t in sales, it is about your productivity. So, why the shortsightedness? In the sales function, frontline sales managers have a greater impact on sales execution, sales productivity, and sales transformation than any other role. But, they are constantly pulled by competing goals and motivations of their team and corporate executives, as well as between those of customers and the internal organization. Also, the lack of manager interpersonal skills is costing companies $360 Billion dollars a year.

When senior leadership focuses on developing these sales managers and teaching them to develop others, win rates can increase up to 9% and revenue plan attainment by 18.4%.  Millennial engagement will also lift. For most organizations, these numbers are a game changer.

We see repeatedly that when managers are focused on behavior change (development) rather than BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals), they are more likely to reach those goals.In other corporate functions, the results are similar. Developing front line managers measurably moves the needle. Research shows a 29% increase in top-line performance due to the skills of managers, independent of the skills of their people. The high-skill managers had 47% higher employee satisfaction (ESI), and 16% higher customer satisfaction (CSI) than did managers with low skill ratings.

Clearly, managers who are great people developers have a profound impact on an organization.  But, development takes time and effort. And, frontline managers themselves are one of the least developed groups in an organization. They are put under pressure by senior executives to focus on quarterly or annual numbers rather than on the behaviors that will get them to the numbers. Shooting for some far-off measure of success – a performance-based goal – works against you.

Performance is an outcome. It happens because of what you do in every single interaction and how you prepare for them. Frontline Managers should be one of the first groups you spend L&D budget on. They  are among the biggest catalysts for success in an organization. The behavior they model and the coaching they give are the easiest way to get a lift in your numbers – or not.

Here is a good start to training and developing that will deliver the numbers I mentioned above:

  • Be clear that a training program online or in a classroom is only the beginning of behavior change. No real change will happen because of that interaction only.
  • Be sure that the manager is clear on the value of the skill, is proficient at the skill and will model the behavior before putting others through a program. Without manager engagement, your money is wasted.
  • Consider what types of continuous small learning chunks you can apply after the training until you see behavior change.
  • Consider developing the manager’s skill in Coaching and Communication.
  • Include development as part of your business strategy.
  • If you are a frontline manager and have the authority, engage L&D or Talent Management and partner to build out a development process for your team.

When training doesn’t succeed, it is usually a result of one of these things. The manager himself wasn’t trained. The manager isn’t engaged. Or, the learning and development ended after the class ended.

Learning and Development is changing rapidly. L&D and Talent Management leaders are working to give you the best tools for improving team success. But, they only provide the tool, the hammer per se. If you use the hammer to wash your clothes it isn’t L&D’s fault it didn’t work.

If you aren’t developing managers first and then building development strategies for them and their teams, you are using the tool incorrectly. If you are teaching them, through your cultural norms, that the problem to any solution is a training class. You are getting the outcome that meets your effort.

Jane Gentry leverages her experience with Fortune 500 clients to help mid-market companies grow revenue by solving key sales issues like:  process, pipeline, leadership, relationship management and hiring. She speaks worldwide on topics about sales growth and leadership. Her clients include companies in manufacturing, medical, professional services and technology.

Connect with Jane!

Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | BrightTalk Sales Channel 

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