Training: A Strategic Investment

A global survey by HCM Advisory Group found that 48% of executives view their company’s learning function either as a necessary but high-cost contributor or sunk cost.

52% see the learning function as a strategic enabler for the organization.

86% of the survey participants were US companies.

Transfer of learning to the workplace is what makes training a strategic enabler, providing knowledge and skills that participants actively, successfully apply on the job to make a positive difference for the business. When there is inadequate transfer of learning from the classroom to the workplace, training is a sunk cost, equivalent to money lost that cannot be recovered.

Based on the skill gaps we’re experiencing as we struggle to move from the pandemic to growth, it’s clear we need to focus on building sustainable organizations. We must develop our talent to meet both current and future business needs.

Planning and delivery of training requires knowledge of adult learning, retention and behavior change. For training to be leveraged to achieve your business strategy, skillful programming design and implementation will be essential for your organization’s success. The purpose of this article is to support the successful implementation and impact of your training and development investments.

Following are 3 actions to build the strategic value of training for your organization.

Align training with the business strategy. Training is long recognized as a tool for behavior change and performance improvement. Its value is maximized when clearly connected to your business strategy.

So, a first step may well be to train all employees in the business strategy, especially focusing on the company’s differentiation/value proposition. Employees need to have a clear and up to date personal understanding of the strategy and be able to discuss your customers. Everyone needs to be able to articulate the company’s products, services, key competitors and how they contribute to the company’s competitive differentiation.

To benefit from strategic alignment, it is essential that each and every employee have a clear vision of how s/he impacts the company differentiation/value proposition and affects achievement of the strategy. This not only helps to build engagement, as it is is recognized today that engagement helps build performance.

To foster this alignment, the training team can partner with executives to ensure there is an effective annual review of business needs and the strategy, and identify training and development programming that will equip employees with the knowledge and skills to perform the work needed now and in the future for the organization to execute its strategy.

Expand your learning function’s contributions. Per HCM’s survey report, learning functions that are viewed as strategic enablers are:

6% more likely to deliver training to customers.

8-9% more likely to deliver training to partners/channels.

4-6% more likely to deliver training to suppliers

25-42% more likely to report that training is aligned with business strategy.

Twice as likely to use objective measures of employee performance to align their learning to the business strategy.

Twice as likely to do formal learning requirements planning.

Four times more likely to have a learning advisory board with members from the business and the learning function.

26-43% more likely to have an annual process of mapping the learning strategy to the business strategy.

39% more likely to have been demonstrating the impact that training has on the business.”

According to the Association for Training and Development (ATD), companies who invest in formal training have a 218% higher income per employee than companies who do not have formalized training. In addition, companies with formalized training have approximately 24% higher profitability than those who don’t invest in training.

Training also helps retain your people. 40% of employees who do not feel they receive adequate training to be successful in their jobs leave within the first year. In other surveys, 70%-87% of employees stated that professional development and career growth opportunities are important criteria for deciding to stay or to leave their jobs. And, in a survey of 4,300 workers, 74% felt that they weren’t achieving their full potential at work due to lack of development opportunities.

Set up your organization for success. Design training such that transfer of new skills and behaviors is programmed into the delivery process. In addition, partner with line managers to build an environment conducive to this transfer from the training room to the workplace.

To design your training for effective learning transfer, experience has shown that content in all-day and/or multi-day training programs is not nearly as likely to be retained and subsequently applied on the job as training programs that are broken into 2-4 hour blocks delivered in consecutive weekly sessions. This is especially important when the training is focused on behavior change.

Research shows that learning and retention of training content are significantly enhanced when quizzing, testing and varied learning activities are built into training. This may include scheduled quizzes and/or tests as well as in-class or outside-class exercises or projects that require reference to and repetitive application of the learning content. Following training completion, managers can support employees in locking in concepts and practicing them to convert new knowledge into skills through observation and feedback.

Without these measures, learning from training can quickly be forgotten as the participants return to the routine of work and leave concepts from the classroom behind. Learning transfer is the biggest challenge for employees and a critical component for training impact. Knowledge transfer requires support and measurement to be effective. It is transfer of learning to the job that brings a return on investment to the organization and training participants.

A training function that is seen as a strategic enabler, contributing to the organization’s current and future success, is valued and more readily funded despite the intangibility of its “products.” It’s also less likely to go to the chopping block when cost savings are required in an organization.

Finally, today’s challenging business environment is right — it’s better than ever before – to make strategic impact through employee development. Today, it’s people that are the most critical strategic assets a company has. It is this reality that uniquely positions your training function to make a difference.

Consider these questions:

How is your organization leveraging training as an integral component of your Human Capital strategy?

Is training viewed by employees and leaders as value added? As a strategic enabler? Or is it seen as a cost center, or as sunk cost?

Whatever your starting point, map your steps forward. Your learning function can make an increasingly meaningful, lasting, positive impact on the business and its people.

Resources/Recommended Reading:

Mind-blowing Statistics that Prove the Value of Employee Training and Development – Link: Mind-blowing Statistics that Prove the Value of Employee Training and Development (

Copyright 06/01/2021 by Rosanna M. Nadeau

Image source: Pinterest

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