In leading the North Texas region for Dale Carnegie for over 5 years, one of the most frustrating things I have witnessed in our field is the absence of “learning sustainment” strategies.
I have seen nothing short of transformation in our programs, the kind of breakthroughs that literally change lives and are sure to propel those individuals into senior leadership roles within their organizations. And for many of those individuals, that’s exactly how it plays out. I’ve met dozens of CEO’s across North Texas that attribute at least part of their success, and sometimes a great portion, to Dale Carnegie training earlier in their careers.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen people experience breakthroughs, have multiple “ah ha” moments throughout their training, only to return to their companies after the training is over, and default back to their former behaviors within six months. With all the time and effort they put into their own training, and all the money their companies have invested in them, it’s heart-breaking to see this happen..
Why does training stick with some, and not others? There are many possible reasons, but the one two I have seen most often are:
- Participants return to an environment that does not support what was learned. For example, if a participant learns about cooperative leadership, for example, and returns to a culture in which management shoves their agendas down everyone’s throats, the participant cannot survive utilizing the skills they developed. They become culture misfits if they don’t get on board with the status quo.
- Companies use leadership training to “check the box.” It’s a very short-sited approach when L&D managers are forced to cram as much training as possible into an inadequate budget, and they are unable to afford the kind of tools that ensure their employees develop and retain skills. It sets the organization, and everyone in it, up for failure.
The first scenario can only be addressed from the very top of the organization with an intentional culture shift. It is a rare and unique CEO that takes on this kind of challenge, and we applaud those that go for it. It requires a tremendous amount of risk, a long-term commitment, and significant capital allocation.
The second scenario requires L&D managers to have the courage to challenge the status quo, and fight for the tools necessary for learning sustainment. The three tools that can move the needle in this area are:
- Post-training sustainment sessions and ongoing internal forums.
- “Gamification” tools that create competition to utilize the skills developed, continuing after the training is complete.
- Ongoing public recognition by senior management for implementation of skills (measured by KPIs or before/after 360 assessments).
These three tools are often thought of as optional “add-ons” when designing/determining a training solution, which is why they are cut out during the process to save a few bucks. But these tools, or the lack thereof, will determine the long-term effectiveness of any skill development plan. Sustained learning = sustained success.