By Annie Mullins, Head of Talent
The challenges facing businesses the last few years have affected investment in learning and development opportunities. While some organizations value training and development more than ever, others have decided to reduce their budgets.
According to a 2022 learning and development survey conducted by Training magazine and Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc, today’s high-performing companies invest and implement effective leadership development programs.
But what factors distinguish effective from ineffective development programs?
There are multiple attributes associated with an investment-worthy training program for your managers, including relevance, timeliness and ease-of-application. Ultimately, the end result of a successful leadership program should be a change in behavior.
The goal of a successful development program is not attendance; it is application.
Practical application can be difficult to achieve, even when using best practices like an individualized approach, but it is the only way to inspire true growth. As with any training program, managers should be able to easily apply what they learn to their day-to-day roles. What a wasted investment for leaders to attend a training session then go back to work like nothing happened!
So how do you shape a program to ensure effective application? Here are three tips to keep in mind:
- Connect all training to your company’s bigger picture. Any development program should be connected to what’s going on in the business. Create direct ties to the organization’s strategic priorities, mission, vision and values and contextualize material by explicitly sharing the “why.” When people understand how applying what they’ve learned supports the future direction of the company, they’ll be more likely to sustain the behavior change.
- Engage senior leaders. When leaders across all levels of the business show support for and encourage the application of learning, teams experience longer-lasting results. Intentional check-ins between managers and their direct leaders increases accountability, and executive buy-in is critical to sustainability. “High-performing organizations are significantly more likely to engage their executives in modeling effective leadership behaviors; setting clear expectations for leadership development,” according to the 2022 Training magazine survey.
- Pivot as needed. Application means experimenting to determine what works and what doesn’t. If you are not seeing the desired behavior change, despite making connections and increasing accountability, it is time to reevaluate. Trying to force something that is unsuccessful will result in frustration. Talk to your managers about the application pain points and make adjustments as needed.
How we know it works
At KWI, we’ve created and implemented customized training curriculum centered around practical application for our clients. As part of our Leadership Enablement Program, learners create a personalized action plan at the completion of each module and are encouraged to identify ways to implement concepts in their roles.
Additionally, each learner’s direct leader receives a recap of what concepts were taught, as well as a conversation guide to facilitate accountability during ongoing check-ins. These one-on-ones provide the opportunity for learners to share what’s working and what’s not and provide leaders with insight to better support their teams.
We’ve seen our programs support organizational success, as well as empower individuals. In facilitating a recent development program with one of our clients, we heard direct feedback that reinforced program success. “I’ve been in leadership for 20 years and this is far and away the best leader course I’ve ever had,” said one participant. “Facilitators are outstanding and hold my attention. Coursework is presented in a way I can apply immediately to my job. I really look forward to these meetings.”
With 94% of participants agreeing that the Leadership Development Program was applicable to their jobs, we saw a learning transfer score of 9.3 out of 10, which is staggering compared to the 1.2 industry average as determined by Harvard Business Review.
Our learning and development experts are passionate about creating programs that have a lasting impact and empower teams. Interested in learning more? Contact us to discuss your organization’s leadership needs and our approach.