A common question I get asked by L&D managers is “How can L&D ensure employees are getting development, even when managers and employees are busy?”.
Before I cover some solutions for this, let’s first check we really understand the root causes of the problem we need to solve.
Watch the video below to see me quickly go through the 7 issues (or read the article below for more information):
So the big question that I’m often being asked by learning and development managers is how do I ensure employees are getting development even when employees and managers are busy?
Let’s look at the root causes of this.
1. It’s hard for L&D to get ‘heard above the noise’
This ‘noise’ comes from the fact we’re getting more and more information pushed at us all the time, whether it’s via social media, getting lots of emails, working with more people, and so on. As a result it’s hard to get heard above the noise. So when you’re trying to promote development resources or whatever, that’s really hard because there’s just so much else going on. You have you got to have a strong message to get above that.
L&D might feel they communicate to employees about courses and development resources, but employees and managers still say, “Oh, I wasn’t aware it was going on.”
2. It’s hard to get input from leaders on what development resources should cover
I remember talking to the HR director of a financial services company, and he was saying that one of his big issues was that he’s got a good idea of what employees need, but when leaders identify their needs and the HR Director says, ‘Okay, can we meet to talk about what that would look like?” Then they don’t commit their time. That’s frustrating for the HR Director because he’s then not able to make sure that he’s crafting amazing development programs that are really going to help the organization.
For example, leaders might say: “we need communications skills training.” But if getting time with them to really flesh out what that means is difficult, it’s hard to then create resources that have got leadership support. Worse, it means that you might then go all the way through the process, deliver the training, and then at the end of it leaders say, “Oh, but you know, it wasn’t what we needed” and L&D reply (frustrated): “That’s why we needed your input at the beginning!”.
3. Employees don’t feel a strong sense of commitment to attend
Sometimes L&D is too nice. By making lots of resources available, and being flexible when other priorities come up, L&D can shy away from getting solid commitment from employees to enrol & attend their development programs. If L&D aren’t fostering a strong commitment from employees, then it’s easy for them to cancel or just not turn up.
4. Development quickly falls down the priority list vs. other activities
A problem related to that of commitment is that development falls down the priority list when something else comes up (e.g. a client meeting). Partly this is caused by not having a clear benefit of what the development will bring (we’ll cover this next). More fundamentally, this is caused by what is ‘valued’ in the organization by leaders & managers. If development is seen as a ‘nice to have’ by leaders, it will often drop down the list.
5. The benefit of development is not made clear
Now you might say, “I’m really clear on the benefit that development will bring. I’m a learning and development professional. I know that it’s really important. I know that by teaching people new things that they can do amazing things that can reduce their costs, they can improve their efficiency, and increase success. They can improve the value that they provide to their clients and other people around them. They can innovate, and come up with brand new ideas that drive the business forward.”
You know that development’s really powerful… but are employees and managers seeing that benefit clearly?
One symptom of them not seeing the benefit is when you find the ROI of L&D activity is being questioned by management. So if you hear someone say “Okay, what’s the return on investment of this course?”, this suggests that your leaders aren’t seeing a clear benefit that should be expected from the course. For example, you need to be clear that a particular course is expected to increase sales by 20%. rather than just saying, “Oh, it’s a client relationship course,” where you’re not being clear on the benefit.
If employees aren’t clear on the benefit, how can they defend their place? How can they say to a manager, “I’m sorry, I know we’ve got that client meeting that’s just come up, but I’m booked on this really important training course that’s going to help me improve my sales a lot more than one client meeting will do”. If they can’t defend it in those terms then it’ll just fall down the priority list, and they’ll jump to the client meeting.
6. Employees & managers aren’t convinced the benefits of development will be delivered
Even if you are clear on the benefit, there can be a problem if your employees and managers aren’t convinced that the development resources will actually deliver that promised benefit. So if you’re not showing track record of actually providing real benefit, or that you’re just not providing evidence of that benefit that’s been achieved, then people are unlikely to give up time out of their busy schedules.
7. Employees don’t feel a sense of urgency to make progress with their development / attend training
Even if you solve the 6 issues above, some of your employees and managers will be thinking, “Okay, so I need development resources and it will help me a lot, but can’t it wait another month?” And that’s one of the big reasons why it falls down the priority list is because if it’s not clear why now, they’ll think “the client meeting’s today, why does training have to be today? Why can’t I just attend next week?”.
Instead, you need to help them prioritise development now & start reaping the benefits of this.
If you are clear about ‘why now?’ then it won’t be easy for employees to drop out, and it won’t be easy for development to fall down the priority list. Instead, employees should have a sense of urgency, with clarity on why they want to be attending training, and getting that development now, rather than later.
So those are some of the biggest issues that make it hard to ensure employees continue their development when they (and the business & managers) are busy. When we think about how to improve this area, and improve training attendance, we have to think about how we address these issues.
I hope that’s been useful – catch me on the next video to delve into 3 ways to ensure employees continue development even when they are busy.