There is one absolute truth on employee training: Most of the money you spend on it is probably wasted!
I know this because after 25-plus years of leadership development experience focused on both operations and corporate management positions within home building and Fortune 250 groups, I have seen first-hand that well-meaning managers often send their employees to a training seminar with the expectation that either a problem will be solved, a new skill will be mastered, or a flawed employee will be “fixed.”
The primary reason most training programs fail is that, by definition, most are short-term events where massive amounts of information are disseminated with the hopes that something sticks. The concept is like a gas station: Drive your car or pickup truck to the pump (seminar registration), open the tank (listen), quickly fill it up (sit for six hours—three hours is even better), then zoom away without additional thought (attendance = learning).
Great business leaders understand that education is a process—not a single event. They better guarantee a return on investment by guiding their employees within a system of learning, what I call the 3-R approach to education.
The first “R” of education is “repetition.” Most employees require many repetitions to master any new skill. For example, mastering a golf swing takes years, not just a one-day lesson (trust me on this one!). Ensure your training programs offer sufficient repetition of material.
The second “R” is “reinforcement.” Even with substantial repetition, employees need positive reinforcement that they are on the right track and improving. For example, a system that I developed (and have incorporated in my newest book, “Management Excellence: How to Master the Six Fundamental Skills of Successful Front-Line Leaders”) focuses on reviewing six skills—problem solving, planning and organizing, communicating, delegating, training, and motivating—and then provides an appendix so that individuals can look up answers to questions and find more information on the skills independently, a system that reinforces depth of learning.
The third “R” of employee education is “refreshers.” Repetition and reinforcement may initially integrate the skill into the employee's performance, but only through systematic refreshers (one-on-one coaching, biannual checkups, newsletters, additional workshops) can employees fully imbed the skill into their day-to-day work life.
My three Rs now are being put into play within the lumber and building materials supply industry at North Fort Meyers, Fla.–based Raymond Building Supply, where president Charlie Babb and his management team have completed a round of initial workshops. Phase two of the training, which is now underway, involves multiple on-site visits throughout the year to reinforce and refresh each supervisor on the content, to meet with their employees to drive the learning to the front line, and to introduce new or updated leadership material that gives the latest thinking and “best practices” on the six skill topics.
Without a systematic process of repetition, reinforcement, and refreshers, your training events are one-day vacations rather than educational experiences. If your employees are out having fun in the sun instead of focusing on the task of learning, your company probably is going to get burned.
Dr. Jim Harris is a speaker, author, and seminar leader who consults with companies on how to achieve great results and grow more great leaders. 877-638-7733. www.drjimharris.com