In general, most CEOs want training to influence one of three outcomes: increased revenue, decreased costs, or both. Most training managers think more along the lines of knowledge development: They want people to learn a skill in order to do their job better.
Here lies a slight disconnect: Executives want training that teaches the business of the enterprise, but training managers tend to focus on knowledge development. This isn’t to suggest that knowledge development isn’t important. Rather, the knowledge imparted in training should directly impact revenue growth and/or expense reduction.
Demonstrating the impacts that knowledge can have on these areas can be challenging. Training managers struggle with how to help training participants understand the connection between the training content and its impact on revenue and expenses. In many cases, training managers have to bridge the connection gap with general examples and a “leap of knowledge.” This is usually where leadership training breaks down and relevancy is reduced.
When training managers are able to integrate training into the overall corporate strategy, the training becomes one of the central components of corporate strategic execution. Here are some tips to help ensure that corporate training becomes one of the core components of strategic success:
1. Align Training Topics With Where the Corporate Strategy Is Going
My time with Steve Jobs taught me to make solutions for the future, not for tomorrow. The same applies when creating training.
Training programs need to develop skills that are required for the future. For example: The strategy states that CapEx (capital expenditures) need to be reduced by 15 percent over five years, while R&D investment will increase 3 percent over the same period, resulting in more innovative product launches. The training needs to enable participants to make decisions that drive them to work toward the five-year goal. It cannot simply teach participants what CapEx is or how to innovate more effectively.
2. Ensure That Management Training Has a Challenging Business Acumen Component Blended In
For better or for worse, all corporate strategy is rooted in business outcomes. In one form or another, most strategy outcomes are revenue growth, cost reduction, or a combination of the two. In order to more effectively align management training with corporate strategy, the training program should challenge participants and help them learn business acumen.
Ideally, the business acumen should be specific to the enterprise and its strategy. An examples of this might be leadership development training where participants are made to experience the impact effective leadership has on revenue growth, enterprise efficiency or other variables.
3. Training Programs Should Give Managers a Day in the Executive Team’s Shoes
In other words, the organization should implement learning tools that help lower-level managers see the enterprise from the executive level. Giving managers a day in the executive leadership team’s shoes helps create an enterprise-wide perspective. This often leads to a cohesive understanding of the “why” and “how” behind the corporate strategy. Research has proven that, when managers understand the reasoning behind and potential outcomes of corporate strategy, there is less resistance to change.
Oftentimes, the biggest challenge comes in the form of how to implement these three tips. Equally as often, training managers accidentally overcomplicate the methods in which they implement the solution. Utilizing business simulations is a fantastic way to test this theory, but implementing these tips does not require a large budget. With some forethought, planning, business acumen, and action learning, corporate training will become a strategic implementation imperative that any CEO will love. Most Fortune 500 companies have crossed this chasm already – and with effective planning, any company can follow in their footsteps.