As with many organisations, managers and leaders rely heavily on learning and development (L&D) initiatives for employee growth, improved performance and overall business success. As a result, these organisations invest significantly in training each year. From over $366 billion reported to have been spent on training in 2018, budgets continue to increase year on year. However, despite the strong belief and investment in L&D initiatives, many organisations are yet to see the change or improvement they envisioned. Data further shows that 70% of employees surveyed across 50 organisations do not have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs, and only 25% of employees believe that training improves their performance.
These figures are staggering and lead us to question the role, purpose and effectiveness of learning and development programs in our organisations. Where exactly does the gap lie, and how can this be fixed?
Firstly, there is a large gap in the application of the skills learnt. In line with the above study, only 12% of employees apply new skills from training programs to their jobs, which strongly pushes the notion that employees do not know how best to apply these learning’s, thus creating a transfer gap from theoretical to practical. This was the case with employees in the United Nations (UN) Secretariat in 2009, who noted that their managers found it difficult to effectively apply leanings into their day-to-day activities. To combat this challenge, they provided coaching opportunities for their staff alongside the training program and by 2012 more than 1,300 employees had received coaching. This shift yielded great returns as the organisation noted an 87.6% return on investment (ROI) in coaching alongside improved self-confidence, effectiveness and overall performance. They noted that coaching increased the training program’s efficacy by making employees more aware of their own capacity for productivity.
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An internal report of the Personnel Management Association aligns with the case study presented as it also shows that when training is combined with coaching, individuals increase their productivity by an average of 86% compared to 22% with training alone.
True learning occurs when the learner has transferred his/her learning from the training environment into the real world, and made a substantial change in behaviour or way of doing things. This is where coaching comes in. Coaching guides individuals to reflect on their potentials and performance, and then assists them to implement their learning within a given context such as the workplace or personal life and therefore improve their performance to take it to the next level. As John Whitmore quotes; “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It’s helping them to learn rather than teaching them”.
Coaching and training are uniquely different; however, they both form the backbone of the continuum of development.
A German psychologist, who discovered “The Forgetting Curve”, stated that if new information isn’t applied, individuals will forget about 75% of it after just six days. Coaching thus serves as a form of reinforcement to combat this “Forgetting Curve” by partnering with individuals to ground their learning in real-life situations. It also supports employee to focus on outcomes and not just credits gained from the trainings taken, this ensures that employees not only learn the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, but also that they retain what they learn.
Organisations must also shift from the notion of training as a ‘tick off the box’ or ‘just another L&D initiative from management’, but must instead adopt a learning culture which incorporates a strong coaching approach. This entails developing training environments that make staff feel safe and supported, whilst also leveraging active listing and powerful questioning for active participation.
Learning cultures are essential for modern organization. Companies must move beyond just offering learning events or a curriculum of e-learning modules and focus on developing a true learning culture, one that inspires, opens minds, supports change and growth, encourages creativity, delivers innovation and develops the next level of leaders.
It is no news that coaching and training are uniquely different; however they both form the backbone of the continuum of development. Thus, it is worth considering the interplay between both, most especially in regards to how coaching can further boost the impact of training. It is time to consider whether your business is maximizing its investment in training and if your company is approaching L&D correctly. Rethink your L&D initiatives today by incorporating coaching to maximize your ROI.