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Three Times Non-Sustainable Training Affects the Bottom Line

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

One of the top concerns I address with corporate clients is sustainable training. At the very least, to retain employees and avoid costly mistakes, organizations need consistent onboarding experiences and timely professional development. While most organizations acknowledge this fact, implementing a successful training program is a real challenge. It’s not just about designing content or identifying motivating trainers. Training needs to be able to grow with the number of employees and business needs.

Three Scenarios

Here are three common scenarios where I see unsustainable training affecting the bottom line:

Startups that fail to prepare for growth: The question is: how do startups systemize training for exponential growth? With a lean team in place, everyone already needs perform their roles and then some. One-on-one welcome-to-the-team meetings and lunches that were popular during the early days are no longer convenient. Training suffers because no one has the time to train new employees thoroughly, maintain training for existing employees, or create new systems of training to address growth. Additionally, the company is evolving, and the processes performed during the early days are no longer applicable. No one wants to spend time to develop learning for something that might change in three months. There’s just a lot of resistance to formalizing training, in general. It feels impersonal, and some think that systematized training runs contrary the more personal everyone-knows-everyone vibe of a startup.

The result is a retroactive, fear-based training philosophy and costly mistakes. Training becomes an effort to put out fires or feign accountability after issues arise.

Reliance on top performers as trainers: Often, top performers are assigned to training. This is especially true in small- and mid-sized businesses. When the amount of training required exceeds the time allotted for those responsibilities, someone suffers: either the top performer who can no longer perform the job for which they were hired, or the new hires and developing team members who grapple with a lack of professional development.

The result is an inconsistent level of training across the company and shoddy retention. Team members start to leave because they aren’t learning anything new. According to The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, leadership training is ranked as one of the most highly-desirable traits in an employer by Millennial employees. 71% of Millennial looking to leave their job over the next two years said that is was because they were lacking leadership training.

Expanding locations without a standard for training: Training that lacked forward-thinking becomes a roadblock during expansion. Different locations start to use different language and have different processes for things that should be standard across the company. The differing quality and standard of training also affects the way employees at different locations buy into the mission and values of the organization. Tribalism causes silos between locations and departments, who cannot effectively collaborate.

The result is that employees fail to meet compliance standards (company-based, regulatory, etc.) and are unable to collaboratively innovate. The lack of standard language and training causes costly communication lapses between teams and across the organization.

Designing Sustainable Systems

Do any of those scenarios sound familiar to you? Perhaps, you've seen the ways in which non-sustainable training impacts the organization in other ways.

Bottom line: if you want to grow your bottom line, you have to training program that is also capable of growth.

When an assessing the sustainability of an ecosystem, one has to consider the place, time, resources, and organisms within it.

The same is true for a learning ecosystem. Designers have to think about how agents will both impact and be impacted by the system. They have to think about the consumption and production of resources. They have to consider culture, events, and existing microcosms/macrocosms.

A good instructional designer will work hard to address the challenges of sustainability before they become workplace hindrances.

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