There is no doubt that learning is critical to remaining competitive. According to Arie De Geus, then head of strategic planning for Royal Dutch Shell, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” But while there is a direct relationship between the level of investment in corporate training and the level of productivity and profit, the high upfront costs involved make it imperative that such training quickly generate a high return on investment.

This article notes, however, that there is “a tremendous power loss between the classroom and the workplace.” Research shows that every dollar spent on corporate training returns only between 15 and 50 cents of impact on business. While increases in productivity and teamwork are valuable, the authors stress that they must directly impact the on-the-job “action” applied to relevant work. To paraphrase the authors, “the learning gap must be closed.”

The article lists six simple principles – the 6 D’s – that can effectively achieve this closure:

  1. Define the outcomes in business terms – This is a shared responsibility of management and trainers that explicitly states what employees will do differently or better and how this will be reflected in business results.
  2. Design the complete experience – Powerful influencers on learning transfer include pre-course preparation, management support and other assistance lent to trainees in their application effort.
  3. Deliver for application – A direct connection must be made between classroom theory and the job, with real business needs anchoring each topic and each topic illustrated by relevant examples.
  4. Drive follow-through – People must be pushed across the learning-doing gap. Learning objectives must be treated as real business objectives – tracked, measured and evaluated, with periodic reminders for participants of their “developmental obligations.” A follow-up forum “to draw out and consolidate the lessons of the experience” is vital.
  5. Deploy active support – Managers should require learners to use their new skills immediately. They should actively endorse the training program and its goals and their performance evaluation should reflect this.
  6. Document results – Management needs to track and assess results from training and development programs.

The article ends with suggested evaluation criteria.

Source: Cal Wick, Kathy Granger, Electric Perspectives; Nov/Dec, 2004

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