Culprit in The Great Training RobberyIs your organization using a “spray and pray” approach to training and development? What kind of return are you getting on your investment?

Michael Beer is Cahners-Rabb Professor of Business Administration, Emeritus at Harvard Business School. He and his colleagues are working on a paper focused on “The Great Training Robbery.” They’re finding that some studies show only 10 percent of corporate training is effective. The problem isn’t so much with the training programs as with organizations not laying the groundwork to maximize the return on their investment.

Part of the problem is that most training focuses on individual behavior change and isn’t part of a larger organization development process led by the senior team. This is consistent with what we’ve found is a simple formula to lasting and effective leadership and organization development; B = P x C. That is, Behavior is a factor of Personal development multiplied by the organization’s Culture.

Beer reports “the system of organizing and managing is so powerful that individuals and teams returning from training will not be able to be more effective unless the system enables them to apply their learning. So, efforts to change the system must come first.” We find that a key step to dealing with this problem is managers actively supporting development activities with before and after coaching sessions.

Most organizations use their training investments about as strategically as they deploy their office supplies spending. That’s why executive team building and culture development is such a vital step. When development is part of a larger organization or culture development strategy, training investments are multiplied exponentially. This can bridge or close the gap between what’s taught in training programs and day-to-day management behavior on the job.

Beer concludes “organizational transformations around the world would be more rapid and cost effective if executives were willing to create the context for effective management training by starting with honest conversations about the system and changing it first.”

Are your training and development efforts being robbed by ineffective implementation? Are you culpable? Or are you an accessory before the fact?