Last week, I was kicking off the second, of at least four twelve week leadership training courses that I will be delivering for a client of mine. This client has 3,100 or so employees and produces a very needed product.
One of the most senior leaders in the organization who oversees the manufacturing operations of the organization. Is one of the reasons the training was brought in to the company to begin with. I allow them to kick off the training for the twelve week training program. The twenty or so leaders that are participating in the training all report up to this person somehow. This leader may not have a direct contact with the participants, but they all fall under their responsibilities somewhere down the line.
The reason the training works within this company is because of the commitment of leadership to the training and the follow-up. This leader tells the participants in the room that day, that they appreciate their commitment to their job and the company. They then go on to speak for about three or four minutes on the importance of the training and why they are participating in it. During this message, something they said that most leaders don’t say, or in many cases, are so far removed that they are not in position to say is this.
They said “Over the next twelve weeks of this training course, there will be times when you question whether to complete a job that you are working on, or follow-up with a customer, or need to put out a pending fire that needs your attention, or attend the training. In all of these cases, I want to remind you that there is no need to think about what you should do. The answer will always be make sure you are in this training session and are fully present during this training.”
As a trainer this is music to my ears. And it should be to an employee as well. The commitment that this company has to increasing the skills of its employees is truly amazing. Many times as a trainer, I have conducted training where a person, or persons, who are participating in the training, come and go during a session. I have asked a manager what is going on? Or if they think they should be in here? And I have had managers tell me many times, that whatever it is the employee is working on can’t wait.
By making this statement, the training and development of this employee is put on hold, because the manager has communicated what is most important. Which is getting work done, over getting training in.
One of the problems with this philosophy, that a lot of senior leaders and company owners have. Is that they think there will come a day when the work stops and they can focus on training and development. This is a myth. We both know the work never stops. There is always another issue, another upset customer, another employee issue, that will take precedent over training with this kind of philosophy.
The company that I share the story about above is one that knows that there is never a good time for training. There are always other priorities. However, they also know that without ongoing development and training that the individual will never deliver the best value that they can for their skills and talents, which in turn doesn’t allow the company to thrive and grow. If the employees aren’t growing, the chances are the company isn’t going to grow either.
This leader, and the leaders within this company, understand that growth, training, and development of the employees, especially the leadership working directly with the majority of the workforce responsible for manufacturing, producing, and shipping the product. Is the most important investment that they can make.
To answer the question. Why do some training programs work and some don’t? Very simply the commitment from the top leaders of the company. As I mentioned earlier, one of the leaders in this company gets in front of the group and tells them that nothing they do or are required to do is as important as them attending and participating in this training program for the next twelve weeks.
This kind of statement and commitment not only communicates what is most important, but it also takes the decision-making out of the equation for the employees involved in the training. Leaders have to help employees make decisions some times. It is part of leadership. By telling them in advance what the priorities are and what is most import, it clearly communicates what should be done. When a decision that needs to be made comes up. This is a gift that most leaders never give their employees.
Instead employees are left to make their own decisions. And then when they do, they may find out that it was the wrong decision, and then a leader doubles down on it, by reprimanding the employee for making the wrong decision.
Senior leaders and owners of companies need to ask themselves these questions first before investing in training for the workforce:
- How committed are you to the training?
- How will you communicate the importance of this training to the people involved?
- How will you demonstrate that the training is as important as you say it is?
- What kind of follow-up will you do and require the employees to participate in to make sure the training sticks?
- What kind of accountability will you conduct to those who don’t take it as seriously as they should?
I am sure there are other questions to ask as well, but these are a good start.
If you want training and development to work and stick, you have to create a learning culture that is clearly communicated from the top. That is how you get training programs to work, and when you don’t clearly communicate it, the chances are the program wont work.
To your success and your future.