Stop Burning Money Training People! Part 2 of 2

The greatest return on investment for training comes when managers focus on helping each employee to MASTER the consistent, correct application of what was taught.


In the Part 1 of Stop Burning Money Training People! we explored how some training programs fail to achieve an acceptable return on investment, in light of the fact that on average, organizations spent nearly $1,300 last year to train each employee. Read Part 1 to better understand these key points:

  • The correlation between training and development, employee engagement, and employee retention.
  • The steps effective managers can take prior to a training event in order to assure that participants are explorers, and not vacationers or prisoners.
  • The actions effective managers take during training programs to monitor the quality of learning going on in each session

We’ll now explore the steps effective managers take following a training event to multiply the training program’s ROI (return on investment).


The Holistic Performance Management Model



The Holistic Performance Management Model is a helpful way to visualize how effective managers manage their staff and its performance. Note that Quadrant One, Establish, is where you find training (Teaching New Skills). Training is just the first part of the equation. Unless employees correctly apply what they learned, and practice it, they will never master it. That’s why Quadrant Two, Master, is so critical to the success of training programs and improving their ROI. What managers do here as they Observe Performance and provide Coaching & Feedback to their staff assures that the employee will master what he or she has learned, and apply the learning consistently and correctly so that it becomes a habit. You can learn more about Holistic Performance Management by clicking on the link.


Effective Managers Model What Was Taught

When a manager participates fully in a training program, he or she is able to apply and model what was taught through his or her actions. For example, suppose the training topic – improving interpersonal communications – presented ways that good communicators ask questions and use interactive listening to engage with others more effectively. Following the training the manager models these behaviors and approaches by asking more questions, better questions, and using listening techniques. Not only does this result in an improved level of personal communications, it reinforces what was learned for the rest of the staff to benefit.


Effective Managers Intentionally Observe What Was Taught

In his management classic, The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard sets forth one of the most important management principles that any manager can apply daily: catch employees doing something right. In order to catch them doing something right, you need to be carefully observing what they are doing. This places you in a perfect position to help the employee polish the skills they learned in training until each is perfectly and consistently applie

That means setting aside time on your calendar each day to observe your staff as staff members have opportunities to apply what was taught. Experience shows that if you don’t schedule time to observe performance – and then follow your schedule – the busyness of the day will overtake you and you’ll never get around to practicing this critical performance management discipline.


Effective Managers Coach What Was Taught

Coaching is not telling people what you have observed – that is giving feedback. Coaching is using questions to help an employee self-assess his or her application of new skills and knowledge in order to lead him or her through the process of self-discovery. Coaching correctly is the single most important talent development tool a manager has! Click on Basic But Brilliant Coaching Questions to learn more about this management super skill.

I suggest the use of three initial coaching questions. Each question opens up the process of self discovery, and should be followed by questions that drill down on the employee’s answers. Complete the drill down on the first question before you move to the next question, and DO NOT PROVIDE FEEDBACK until you have asked (and have gotten the answers) to each of the coaching questions. Here are the three initial coaching questions:

1. In applying (the skill or knowledge), what went well for you? Ask follow-up questions until you drill down in this area.

2. In applying (the skill or knowledge), what did not go as well for you as you would have liked? Ask follow-up questions until you drill down in this area.

3. If you could do things over again, what would you do differently (and why/how)? Ask follow-up questions until you drill down in this area.


Effective Managers Offer Feedback on What Was Taught

Effective managers wait until they have fully coached an employee before giving feedback on what they’ve observed. Why? Because the manager cannot learn anything about what an employee knows if the manager is doing all the talking. The coaching questions help reveal what the employee knows and doesn’t know. Coupling this information with what the manager has observed, he or she is now positioned to provide specific feedback to further help the employee master what he or she was taught. See Feedback: The Fuel That Drives Performance for an in-depth discussion of how the most effective managers use feedback.


Bottom Line, Part 2

Effective managers multiply the ROI on the company’s investment in training through four intentional activities: modeling what was learned; observing the application of what was learned, then coaching, and finally providing feedback on what was learned. In this way the employee moves from learning to mastering the skill or knowledge, and making it a repeatable habit.


I love working with curious people! Here are several outstanding resources that can help satisfy your own curiosity in three key areas that can boost you career:

I help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


Seven Ways to Convince a Committee Continue Reading


You Got a Job Offer! Now What? Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 5 Continue Reading