Are you wasting your development budget?

Living and working in 3 different continents I’ve noticed a common problem with development budgets — they are never large enough! This forces organizations to prioritizes technical skill building over behavioural training; hi-potentials over hi-performers; senior leadership over middle management; and HQ employees over satellite employees.

Development budgets also have a history of their impact being questioned. This leads to HR trying to prove their worth and ROI to win resources in an annual influencing affair. However questions on utility and effectiveness will always linger, e.g. Does coaching really change behaviour? Does classroom training lead to better performance in the workplace?

Organisational Context and sharing responsibility

Rather than spend more, its time to rethink development strategies and the activities themselves. Most development interventions fail because they operate outside the existing organisation context.

For training/executive education and coaching to work they must be integrated into the larger organization rather than act as a stand alone activity. Aside from aligning organization processes, procedures and systems to support people development, efforts must first focus on creating shared accountability across the entire 360 degree employee interface, starting with the line manager before moving onto peers and direct reports.

The line manager must act more than a sponsor and play an active role in ongoing development of their people. For improved Training and Executive Education outcomes, this would mean managers ensuring training outcome are correctly aligned to existing development needs as well as engaging their direct reports in post training reflection sessions afterwards to agree what they are going to do differently in 3, 6, 12 months, with regular follow up to ensure follow through. These conversations can take as little as 15 minutes which allows any busy manager to find the time to make these conversations happen, if they are prioritized.

For coaching, this means asking the manager to join the end of every coaching session for a few minutes, to share agreed actions and suggest how they can help the direct report execute them successfully back in the workplace. Peers and direct reports also play a vital role in calling out behaviour that inhibits goal achievement as well as providing active encouragement during the uncomfortable novice learning stage.

By creating shared accountability, you indirectly help employees become better at people development. This will help reduce the need for additional training and coaching later in turn helping you save money. However because many organizations aren’t very good at building talent internally it requires greater spend initially on creating expertise within. The first step is to teach people how to write and execute great development plans that actually lead to behavioural change and improved performance. Too many times I’ve seen quarterly/annual development planning as a tick box activity (with a heavy focus in attending magical 2-day training programs at idyllic retreats!) with little follow up on progress against the plans as the year goes by. Assisted development planning and expert support is a must until the art of creating development plans is mastered. The investment will be worth it later.

So if you want to change behaviour and improve performance as well as better utilise your development budgets, remember what happens outside the classroom and coaching sessions matters!