How to Improve Your ROI on Capability Development

According to the ASTD, US corporations spent over 150 BILLION DOLLARS on employee learning and development in 2011.  This figure translated into just under $1,200 per employee, which doesn’t include the costs of an average of 31 hours’ training time.  Unfortunately, while this money was being spent, US productivity DECLINED during the first half of 2011, with a modest second-half rebound and zero real growth for the year.  If I were a CTO (Chief Talent Officer), I would have a difficult time justifying this expense, with such a poor return.


At Teleos, we spend a lot of our time designing and delivering capability development solutions, and we expect those solutions to improve both skills and performance.  To achieve this effect, we need to help our clients overcome several common roadblocks to capability development, and this blog will provide some insight into how we do it.


We see six very common, yet crucial, roadblocks to effective capability development.

  1. Employees don’t understand expected skills and actions, or why they’re critical for business results.
  2. Employees don’t get specific, descriptive feedback on how their current performance compares with expected skills and actions.
  3. Employees don’t get needed support to build and apply new skills, either during training or back on the job.
  4. Employees fear replacing a “winning formula” of familiar actions with unfamiliar, untested new skills.
  5. Employees avoid some actions because they fear potential negative consequences – especially with “difficult” conversations.
  6. Leaders are told to coach, but then get few rewards, limited training and tools, and implicit messages about urgency and problem solving.


It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.  And, while it’s not insane to want people to build new skills and improve their performance,  it will be difficult to achieve that change without removing at least some of these roadblocks.


Following are some solid tips that should help you improve your learning and development ROI.

  • Develop only those skills that all stakeholders agree are absolutely essential for effective performance. (e.g., conflict resolution for program managers)
  • Describe the connection between the skill and expected result so any training and coaching can be correctly focused, (e.g., resolve priority, resource conflicts)
  • Explain the “natural consequences” of poor/no skill implementation support to sponsors and managers, and then negotiate for specific coaching expectations.
  • Test knowledge acquisition during the training. (you’d be AMAZED at how few companies ever take this step)
  • Have a plan and process to connect employee and coach immediately after the event.
  • Reinforce effective coaching with training, tools, and rewards.
  • Help employees surface and address “hidden concerns” about using the new skills.  (e.g., the fear of talking with a client or manager about off-track performance)


What do you think? Have you seen any of these roadblocks operating in your organization? What have you tried to help your talent development efforts “stick”?

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