Improving Corporate Learning and Development ROI

It’s never been tougher to build human capital in large, complex organizations.  Often, the greatest upside (and challenge) is with the vital middle management strata who posses the numbers, base skills and authority to significantly improve business performance.  Caught between a rock and a hard place, these folks are expected to be more strategic, adaptable and innovative while trying to cope with rapid change, tighter budgets and increasing regulation.  The optimal way for the firm to build competencies is through management training. Farsighted leaders get this.  Andrall E. Pearson (past president, PepsiCo) echoed this sentiment when he said, “To improve a company fast, develop people fast.”  

However, in most companies there is a pervasive gap between training goals, program delivery and business impact.  Few are satisfied with this status quo.  Corporate buyers are unhappy about spending billions of dollars annually on programs that don’t improve performance, enhance morale and deliver measureable results.  Similarly, thousands of participants’ will sit for days in boring classes that lack relevancy to their day-to-day jobs, business challenges and organizational life.

There are many reasons for this situation.  The vast majority of training programs in areas like strategic thinking and change management are too generic in nature to have a signficant short term impact.    Secondly, for all of their teaching expertise most instructors are educators first and foremost, possessing little real-world business experience.  Finally, most management training programs utilize a traditional lecture-based pedagogy emphasizing rote learning and memorization.  Although effective in some cases, lecturing is less successful in imparting knowledge and skills for complex topics that require a people-centered approach, a holistic organizational view and adaptive & creative thinking.

How do your bridge the gap between intent and results?  Our firm has created a unique training model that tailors the content and pedagogy to the client and participant need in a measurable way.  For example:

Customize the curriculum around solving key business issues

For most training programs, teaching generic principles is not enough to help firm’s solve their problems and engage their employees.  The content needs to be tailored around the company’s pressing business issues plus the specific needs of each participant. As one CEO told me, “…we have an aversion against vanilla approaches that don’t apply to our unique challenges and circumstances.”  Moreover, customizing the content enables the firm to better track program impact through actual business results.

Utilize experiential learning methods to catalyze breakthrough thinking and change behavior

Given its common sense and elegance, it is hard to argue against teaching proven theory like Porter’s 5 forces strategy model.  However, we use theory only to provide a framework for further exploration.  To catalyze new learning and activate this knowledge on an ongoing basis, we leverage experiential learning methods such as simulations, games and case studies.  These tools are ideal for teaching complex content as well as facilitating soft skills development like critical thinking, problem solving and communicating.

Use experts who can teach as opposed to expert teachers

Unfortunately, trainers possess a credibility deficit with some managers.  To see this, recall the old adage “those who can’t do, teach”.  Given this bias, we draw on accomplished business practitioners – with a passion for education – to serve as facilitators as well as provide ongoing coaching. Not only do operators bring valuable market experience to the enterprise but they are also more attuned to the everyday people and cultural issues facing the participants.

To be clear, traditional teaching strategies remain effective for transmitting rote skills to lower to mid-level employees.  However, when companies need training schemes to elevate their managers in areas like change management, innovation and strategy and then measure the impact of these programs, a new educational paradigm is needed.

For more information on our services and work, please visit the Quanta Consulting Inc. web site.


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