Learning programmes are more than just a classroom experience and enable a higher level of comprehension that can be later implemented in a real workplace.

With appropriate tools and techniques, organisations can exponentially increase their chances of success, enabling learners to reach defined goals through planned learning and assessment activities.

Contrary to popular belief, it is indeed possible to measure learning results. The difference between training and a comprehensive learning programme is that the latter is a planned, benchmarked effort executed with specific goals in mind.

In a three-phase solution, organisations can learn to assess, implement and adopt strategies for learning programme success. It is important to identify the following:

* The starting point

* The direction in the long run

* The progress

It is impossible to measure the return on investment when your start and end points are not defined. Companies usually make five common mistakes in the pursuit of building a learning programme:

Jumping right in

Without an upfront assessment, companies often end up offering the wrong type of training to obtain their desired performance improvement. They should invest time in identifying the problem and establishing a baseline performance level before offering a solution.

This enables the management to calibrate this against the desired state and monitor progress along the way, using key assessment tools such as custom surveys, interviews with staff, or a skill gap/performance analysis.

This will also present an opportunity to understand employees’ knowledge and their understanding of various project management methodologies, tools, techniques and processes available in the organisation.

Action: Find out where you are currently by benchmarking levels of best practice knowledge and current working practices together and against a common set of baselines and metrics. Use proven “maturity models” to deliver these baselines.

Ignoring individual and organisational perspectives

Pre-training assessments are not beneficial only for individuals, but also for the entire enterprise. Instead of implementing training for all employees, it might be better to organise a mentor programme targeted specifically at individual groups.

The goal is to provide a flexible and durable roadmap for employees to steer them towards the organisation’s vision. An organisation’s processes and infrastructure should support all employees’ skills.

Action: Align the organisation and employees by investing in a structured learning programme with continued education for individuals over a long term to ensure that motivation levels remain high and employees continue to feel empowered to challenge “business as usual” in the interests of practice improvement.

Getting caught in the details

It is important to understand that not all performance issues can be addressed through training. For example, organisations often try to improve performance by focusing on one element (a symptom) of a much larger and very complex process (a cause).

However, looking beyond the details and at the overall process, may make it easier, faster, and ultimately cheaper to find a method to simplify the process. The result will lead to setting up a learning programme, focusing on the “new” process for success and increasing the level of performance.

It is essential to identify how learning can contribute to employees and the company from a strategic perspective and obtain a broader perspective of a particular situation before implementing solutions.

Action: Treat the cause, not the symptoms! Never focus exclusively on “business as usual” at the expense of expanding individual horizons, and vice versa.

Failing to set milestones to evaluate progress

Companies that do not identify their objectives are at serious risk of wasting precious resources. It is advisable to create a road map to keep your activities aligned with your objectives as learning plans can take several years.

A strategic learning programme guides the organisation through its overall strategic plan for growth and requires regular checks on progress, either through a project evaluation or audit.

Action: Plan the work and work the plan by designing your programme with the end objective in mind. Match regular measurements and progress validation against the agreed maturity targets and re-align as required.

Forgetting to start small

Companies that use pilot programmes to test training effectiveness tend to have a higher success rate than organisations that roll out a company-wide learning programme from the beginning.

Baby steps often serve the company’s needs more effectively than a full-force effort. Throughout the learning programme, companies should also think about how they will translate theory into practice.

A post-assessment can guide an organisation beyond the classroom and create a sustainable, effective change.

Action: Start small and build momentum to calibrate the speed at which you develop (and consolidate) individual skills and proficiencies with your organisation’s ability to adopt, embed and deploy those skills consistently in the workplace — this may involve process refinement.

Companies can increase their chances of achieving real organisation performance improvement through well-defined and assessed learning programmes that guide overall organisational progress.

With a more holistic approach to learning, organisations can enjoy the effects of improving business on all levels while working toward a common goal and creating the greatest impact with the fewest resources possible.