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Tips for Maximising Return on Investment When a Member of Your Team Attends a Workshop

11 June 2014

Any experienced facilitators reading this article will be more than familiar with the story of delegates attending workshops without really understanding what it is about, why they have been asked to attend or how they will be expected to apply the learning back in the workplace.  

“I’m here with an open mind” or “I have been told that this will be good for my development… apparently” are all too familiar reasons for attending when asked.  Be honest, we’ve all said it.


An ASTD survey back in 2006 found that 70% of training fails after the learning event itself and a more recent CIPD survey found that only 12% of respondents felt that their line managers take training seriously.

Rather than bemoan the lack of input from managers however, I’m actually on the side of managers on this one. The reality is that many of you are incredibly busy with your day job and get completely bypassed when it comes to the design of learning.  

For some of you, the first that you will hear of the training is when you receive a request from HR or the learner themselves, asking if they can attend a workshop, along with a timely reminder that there may be a fee for late cancellations.  

So here are some practical and timely ideas for managers to get the best out of their reports attending training:

1. Ask yourself what you would like to see as a result of your report attending the workshop.  The chances are that you will be contributing to this from your budget, coupled with the fact that you will be a team member down when they are off site.  So from a commercial perspective, what would represent a return on your investment?

2. Ask the facilitator to contact you before the workshop and explain what content will be covered.  You may also wish to consider asking them to send you a one page workshop overview that focuses on outcomes and results.  

Then ask yourself how these learning objectives relate to the real world and in particular, the day to day role of the person you are inviting to attend.  How relevant does it sound and are the right people attending?

3.  Book in 10-15 minutes in your diary with the person who will be attending, a few days before the workshop.  This conversation should be focused around their workplace objectives.  If this is the right workshop for them, it should be relatively easy to focus on a maximum of three learning objectives.  

For example, if your report is attending a consultative selling workshop, you may ask them to identify two clients with whom they would like to improve their working relationship and bring back three ideas to make this happen.

4. Before you finish your conversation, book in 10-15 minutes in your diary for a conversation after they have attended the workshop, ideally no more than 48 hours after they have attended. The purpose of this conversation is to discuss whether and how the learning objectives were achieved.

5. Arrange a thorough hand over before they attend, as if your report were going on annual leave.  This will enable them to focus on the reason you are sending them out of the business in the first place. 

The reality is that many delegates are expected to call their manager during a so called break, only to return worried about a workplace problem that they can do very little about remotely.  Frankly they may as well be back at work by now because it will be incredibly difficult for them to focus on their learning.

6.  If you are insistent on contacting your report during the training, ensure that the only reason you are calling is to ask them about their learning experience, how they are enjoying it and the extent to which they can apply the learning to their pre workshop objectives. 

The importance of this final point cannot be overestimated.  It is amazing what a three minute phone call can do to restore the faith that your manager genuinely does care about your development and that it will be followed up back in the workplace.

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