Maximize Return on Investment for Training

Companies spend large sums of money to sending employees for training to improve performance. When employees return, they resume ineffective habits. Ken Blanchard says in his book, KNOW, CAN, DO, that he is frustrated people do not implement the changes he teaches. The point of leaders sending employees to training is to develop to new, effective behaviors in employees and become better people. Here are some ideas how leaders effectively help employees implement behaviors learned at training increasing their return on investment (ROI) on training.Man_taking_notes-PXHere.jpg

Require employees to take notes during class. Note taking improves retention. Hand written notes are better than typed notes in the classroomi. When they return to work make them then sit down and type those notes. Typed notes are better than handwritten notes after the class. Typing notes requires the student to revisit the material again providing an additional opportunity to learn improving training ROI. It also provides a readable copy of the notes which will be more useful a few years from now. They understand the type written notes better than their hieroglyphs taken in class. Typed notes should include the title, location, and date(s) of the training, the name of the employee completing the notes, the name of the presenter, and a website for additional information. Typed notes are necessary for a later step in this process, sharing learning with others.

Once your employee has completed their note typing, have them report to you the big concepts taught in the class. Ask them the one or two take always they think are most important to implement in their work behaviors. Work with them to develop an action plan or goal. There are a few other blogs here on goal setting and developing personal improvement plans. As the leader, you have the responsibility to periodically check in with the employee to monitor progress. Employees require your guidance to overcome obstacles and provide encouragement. Set aside 30-60 each week in the first few weeks after class to meet with the employee and measure progress.

One great way to improve learning is teaching. Have the employee present what they learned at your next staff meeting. There are several advantages to having employees present after training. One is you increase your return on the investment you made on that training event. Every employee learns something new, not just the employee who attended the training. Second, the employee becomes the teacher and for a short time, the subject matter expert. This puts them in the spotlight. Everyone craves recognition. This is a great method allowing employees to shine in front of their peers. Third it provides you an opportunity to discuss why the behaviors learned in that training are important. You reinforce for staff what new behaviors you expect from all of them. The message about expected new behaviors comes from a peer. Peer pressure is strong. Use it to your advantage.

Remember those typed notes? Copy and distribute them during the short training session. The notes should include the name and email address of the employee who took the notes. Having the employee’s name and email on the notes provides contact information for others. When other employees have questions, they are able to contact the company’s subject matter expert and receive answers; another opportunity for the subject matter expert to shine.

It may sound a bit overboard to provide all kinds of recognition to an employee returning from training. In some organizations, training is viewed as punishment. People in those organizations think the only reason the company would send someone to a training event is because they messed up something. The training is the company’s way of telling the employee and others about your mistake. Highlighting the positive impacts from training encourages others to want to attend and learn. It is the basis of a learning and improving organization.

Since your employee returned from training, you worked hard to groom him or her into a subject matter expert. You allowed them to share their new knowledge with others. You developed a plan encouraging them to implement changes in behavior learned at the training. Now reap the rewards. Appoint your self-grown expert as a mentor. trusted_rock_guide-andrew.PNGAssign a protegee to the mentor who is dealing with performance problems. Often we think of performance problems as coming from problem employees. Frequently though performance problems come from inexperienced people, or people assigned new tasks without appropriate background or training. Use your subject matter expert to teach this person how to improve. As they work with the newer person, they may find a need to refer back to their original class notes. Good thing they typed them so they are legible! Because you modeled goal setting with your employee, they use that skill to help their protegee set goals. Your newer, inexperienced person benefits from the training provided to the mentor weeks or months ago, another return on your investment. Instead of sending this person to the same training to learn the basics, you book them for something different. When they return, repeat the process and you have a new expert on a different topic.

As time passes, you find many of your people have gone to a wide variety of training. Some learned to become effective leaders. Others learned how to improve customer service. All attend regular training about advances in your company’s field of expertise. Every employee is up on the latest in each area because they benefit from the micro trainings each new subject matter expert provides after an off-site training opportunity. Your people acquired lots of information boiled down in carefully typed class notes. Many have become strong leaders. Eventually people move on to other activities in life. Because you took the time to train everyone about a wide variety of issues from leadership, to cutting industry trends, and building strong networks ensuring customer needs are met, you have no problem replacing leaders. Someone is ready to step into the role. This is the final pay off from that training investment perhaps years ago. You have the right people in the right places with the right training and experience so when someone leaves, no one misses a beat.

Sending employees to an off-site training is a big investment. Good leaders understand how to leverage the learning of one person so that everyone on the team learns. Using these skills the ROI on your training investment. Employees use a training event to help other employees develop goals changing behaviors, the objective of training. Good leaders spotlight the employee’s learning and behavior changes by helping them become subject matter experts. Good leaders set the stage for people to want to go to training because they understand you want them to stick around for a while. You developed a library of knowledge in the typed class notes which is available for everyone. Employees have contact information for subject matter experts. Employees mentored others learning to lead. You influenced change. You influenced others to effectively improve behaviors and accomplish the organizational mission. You maximized the return on the company’s investment on training. Next time someone comes back from training, put them to work so everyone becomes better and maximize ROI on your training investment.


i Doubek, James , and NPR Staff. “Attention, Students: Put Your Laptops Away.” Weekend Edition Sunday. April 11, 2016. Accessed March 09, 2018.,


Mueller, Pam A. “Take Notes by Hand for Better Long-Term Comprehension.” Association for Psychological Science. April 04, 2014. Accessed March 09, 2018.

Helpful Links

For coaching skills from Ken Blanchard Companies:

Good SlideShare summary of Know, Can, Do:

For more information on goal setting:

For a goal setting worksheet:

Photo Credits

Note taker from

Climbers by Andrew St. Cyr used by permission

Practice, Practice the Practical Exercise

One of the joys of being Chief Instructor at a military school house is the time I shared with instructor trainees during their final presentations becoming qualified Army Instructors. During one memorable presentation, the student instructor engaged classmates with two practical exercises. The first allowed students to work in small groups discussing how to apply lessons learned upon returning to their units. In the second, students developed a presentation for their commanders for adoption of principals of this lesson in their units. Both effectively ingrained important points of the lesson by allowing the students integrate what they prior knowledge with newly acquired information to develop their own ideas and reinforced what the instructor taught. This presentation raised several questions including why instructors choose to lecture instead of facilitate, use presentation software instead of practical exercises and how can instructors develop effective exercises to reinforce learning points.

Inexperienced instructors often choose lecture based training because they have the knowledge the students need, lack the skills to develop training that is learner based. They feel more comfortable talking than showing. Developing lecture based training is easy and the least time consuming. Lectures ensure presentation of important information, adhere to time constraints and repeatedly provide the same information during every presentation. Unfortunately, most adults do not learn well with the lecture style and many will leave forgetting most of what was said, defeating the purpose of the training.

Slide decks have become the standard to accompany the lecture method. Pictures, text and video supposedly stimulate the learner’s verbal and auditory centers improving retention from lectures alone, but one phrase says it all, “Death by PowerPoint.” An unfortunate reality, PowerPoint and other presentation software alone fails to engage learners as a result, some organizations forbid use. When used well, they amplify important instruction points, but most of the time slide are used as a crutch. Plenty of books, blogs, articles, TED Talks, comedy skits and ,yes, PowerPoints have been created to improve presentations and truly Impress (an open source alternative to PowerPoint).

ImageDeveloping practical exercises requires genuine understanding of the concepts and principals supporting training, information and task steps. Understanding allows the instructor to identify the basic knowledge required to achieve success. Basic actions required to complete the task create the practical exercise the same way that learning goals are the basis for test questions. Often people are selected to provide organizational training because the have a history of providing great training or are the most educated on the topic within the organization. Lacking expert wisdom, the instructor parrots what he was taught, but their lack of understanding of the concepts and principals prevent development of practical exercises. Students are denied the opportunity to experiment and discover how to use the ideas to improve their performance.

Good practical exercises achieve several objectives for adult learners. They allow the a review of new information learned during class increasing retention. They require learners to integrate new knowledge with what they all ready know. They permit students to teach and learn from each other. They require back briefs allowing peers to learn from their challenges and successes. Each step is a repetition of the information provided in class. Each iteration, embeds knowledge and skills learned increasing the likelihood of desired change.

Lecturing and showing slides permit training to check boxes. Lectures poorly translate knowledge into desired behaviors. Practical exercises allow trainees to practice what they have been taught. They provide opportunities to repeat key points. Repetition increases recall and creates deeper understanding of the material. Creating practical exercises requires the instructor to understand the concepts and principals of the task being trained. Development requires greater time and effort by the instructor but payoffs include increased student understanding, performance and changed behavior on the job. Next time you conduct training, create and conduct at least one practical exercise.

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I have prepared and posted a slide deck on SlideShare supporting this blog. 

I look forward to feedback.  Please take a moment to let me know how this blog has helped with your training and leadership activities.  I am also interested in know what other topics you are interested in reading.

Powering the Leadership Spotlight

Wise leaders understand and obtaining power at many levels. While the opening statement may sound Machavellian and turn away, power is necessary to influence others to accomplish tasks that grow and improve the organization. Leaders set agendas. Without power, organizations deteriorate or cease to exist. Leaders do not work alone. If you want to lead you need to acquire and harness power.

Power focuses organizational energy. Think of power like a spot light. The leader focuses the light in the direction he wants the followers to go, illuminating the objective. Without a power source there is no light to focus, no objective to

In an organization leaders often have one or more power sources available to accomplish goals of the organization. The common power sources include, referent, expert, coercive, legitimate and reward. A short description of each and their uses follow.

Referent power is likability. A more common word, is charisma. This source of power may get you in the door, but rarely lasts long except with those who are weak.

Expert power stems from one’s ability to do well or have specialized knowledge. This provides power in two ways. The first is like the artillerymen of old who guarded the secrets of their craft so their skills would always be in demand by armies. The second yet potentially fleeting source is through the ability to teach others your skill or knowledge. When you share those secrets that have made you successful, you have the potential to create rivals and replacements. Alternatively, you could also develop collaborators who desire to achieve more than either of you could alone.

Legitimate, reward and coercive often go together but not always. Legitimate power is granted when awarded a leadership position within an organization. CEOs have legitimate power to run their cooperation. They also possesses the ability to dole out rewards such as pay raises, promotions and prime parking spaces. On the coercive side, is employment termination, demotions and selection of another’s pet project. Reward and coercive power does not solely rest with formal leaders. Sales reps can influence behavior by offering a better price or withholding the latest product based on previous purchasing decisions.

Power is a tool. If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem or opportunity looks like a nail. However the skilled carpenter with a small complement of tools is capable of building beautiful things. Between his experience and tools he can fashion wood into anything he can imagine. Take another person with a workshop full of tools and no skills. This person would have difficulty building a simple wooden box.

Leaders need to develop a full complement of power sources to influence others. They must learn how to obtain, develop and use each tool. As they practice they will find that the tool they used to accomplish a task with one piece of wood, will not work so well with another piece. One version of a tool may not be capable of completing every job much like using a framing hammer to drive a tack. A tack hammer is the better choice.

As leaders practice their leadership skills they increase the power options available. Using a variety of tools shape followers into quality employees, volunteers and future leaders. When they show those future leaders how to use the full spectrum of leadership powers, they prepare the organization for continued success well into the future as new leaders learn to adjust the focus and intensity of the organization’s spotlight.