7 Keys to Sustaining What Leaders Learn in the Classroom

cathy_7keys_blogimageAccording to the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), U.S. businesses spent more than $156 billion on leadership training programs in 2012. The same ASTD study reported that, post-training, only 15 percent of the leadership skills were transferred from the classroom to the job. That’s a lot of wasted training dollars.

If you want to increase the success rate for your next leadership development roll-out, here are seven fundamentals worth remembering:

  1. Senior executive support:  Before launching a new initiative or program, make sure that senior leaders are sold on the content and the delivery approach.  You can do this by involving the senior team in your initial analysis and design processes.  Then, make sure they are visible in the implementation, whether in person, on video, in periodic messages or by using other organizationally appropriate channels.
  2. A thorough implementation plan:  The design of the program, with the right content and approach, is only the beginningA watertight implementation plan will make the crucial difference. A comprehensive plan includes upfront audience identification, internal marketing, delivery logistics, participant enrollment processes, participant “mix” decisions, manager engagement, facilitator selection and pre- and post-session engagement techniques.
  3. The right delivery talent:  Whether to use internal or external facilitators is another critical decision.  If you decide to use outside consultants or facilitators, working closely them before and during the session will ensure credibility and connection to your business.
  4. Foundational knowledge and application: Make sure that the learning design incorporates both content and application. If the learning is too heavy on content with little attention given to on-the-job application, you won’t change behavior.  At the same time, you don’t want to shortchange the time required to learn new knowledge and skills in a safe learning environment.
  5. High-engagement learning design.  Effective learning incorporates discovery learning techniques like  team challenges, gaming, creative visuals, realistic scenarios, physical movement and other immersive activities that ensure learner involvement, critical thinking and peer reinforcement.
  6. Reflection time.  It’s critical to carve out independent time for learners to digest and reflect on what they are learning so that they can make connections back to the workplace. Critical thinking is an under-developed skill in today’s leaders. The best learning incorporates thinking activities and application planning into every session.
  7. Follow-up and reinforcement. If your plan stops at the classroom, it’s likely that most if not all of the learning will be lost within weeks. Technology can help you here… using post-session online learning extension portals, reminder messages, quizzes, surveys and more.

Today’s learning professionals are always looking for the best mix of strategies to deliver leadership training to the right audiences in the right way. They know success goes well beyond the design or purchase of a great classroom training program.

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