I've spoken before about how 40% of all products fail and how 93% of startups fail. These numbers are staggering, but it's understandable considering the complexity and costs of building a new product and bringing it to market. An even worse number is the amount corporations spend on corporate training (about $150B annually in the US) compared to the returns on training. In a typical instructor-led training regiment up to 90% of the material that students are presented could be forgotten. Even if retention was better, companies don't often have concrete goals for training. How do you measure a course that teaches effective leadership or improving product management? At best, they can look at a reaction metric, such as the employees reaction to the training. This might be a survey or just general comments like, "That training was great." Unfortunately, studies have indicated very little correlation between the reaction of participants and the effectiveness of the training.
So what can companies do if they identify a skills gap, but not waste 90% of their money?
Make sure it's relevant
What are your goals for the training? Work with your trainers to ensure they understand how your business works. What do you expect of your employees on a monthly and yearly interval and how will the training drive those measurements? Don't send your employees to generic training full of tips and techniques they won't use or don't have time to implement. Make the training specific to your organization.
Make it ongoing
Instructor-led training can be very effective for demonstrating techniques and providing feedback, but too much at one time will just ensure most of the message is forgotten. Initial courses should be followed-up with additional coaching and assessments to reinforce the training.
Make it actionable
Training isn't just about imparting knowledge, for companies it is about changing someone's behavior to drive results. Training shouldn't just provide information on business topics, it should provide a method for how to do a job. For product management training this would include actions and metrics related to customer development and agile product development.
Training employees is essential to employee development and the bottom line, but training should be treated as any other investment. Make sure you are getting your money's worth by ensuring the training is specific to your needs and provides the results it promises.