In today’s economy, most business leaders know that every cent counts. So when you decide to invest in an internal company benefit such as business, scientific, or technical writing training for your employees, it’s important that you get your money’s worth both during and after the event.
Few company decision-makers would devote resources to research, launch a product line, and train workers in its production only to ignore the entire endeavor and simply let the product and the employees who produce it land where they may. Yet too often, these leaders invest (sometimes quite heavily) in training for their business, science, or technology employees without a plan for supporting and maintaining the results of that learning.
Writers of the Harvard Business School study and working paper “The Great Training Robbery” look at why training is so often ineffective in the long term. According to Forbes, final results of the study will be published in the Harvard Business Review later this year.
According to the study, “companies are not getting the return they expect on their investment in training and education.” Why not? Writers discuss the leadership and organizational effectiveness training undertaken in one corporate division. The program itself was a smashing success, according to participants and management. Yet just a few years later, division managers noted that “they did not think it [the training] had changed the organization’s effectiveness, its culture or its performance."
A primary requirement for success, according to the study, is support for the desired changes throughout the company culture driven by senior staff and executive management. Open, two-way communications are also key.
If you’re considering writing training, how can you protect your return on investment? Although the Harvard Business School study focuses on leadership training, some of these basic tenets can be applied to writing skills as well.
- Senior management must value the results of the training.
- Company culture must provide opportunities for practice and honest feedback.
- If organizational changes are necessary to support the desired outcomes, they should be made before training takes place.
- Provide help and coaching to teach employees how to enact new behaviors in the workplace.
- Don’t expect human resources staff to lead successful training efforts unless the broader organization is ready and willing to support necessary changes.
According to the Human Resources Council for the Nonprofit Sector, a project of the former Canadian Sector Council Program, a “positive environment for learning is always critical for success.”
- Acknowledge that learning is integral to every aspect of the company.
- Include learning resources in annual budgets and company goals.
- Encourage opportunities for all staff members, not just executives.
- Treat problems and mistakes as opportunities for learning.
- Develop a specific policy on employee training, including expectations for how often employees will participate in formal training, which types of programs to consider, and how you'll fund training.
- Provide time and support for both learning and practicing learned skills.
And of course, it’s essential to choose a writing trainer and program that supports your company culture and matches how you value quality writing. Canned, one-size-fits-all training can miss the mark, leaving participants struggling to apply learning to their specific needs and challenges. Look for a program that’s customized to meet your company’s needs and industry; type of writing (standard operating procedures, scientific writing); and individual challenges. Then, within an environment of support, watch your investment take root and your employees thrive.