HR Training and Leadership Development Strategies That Work


A business is only as good as the skills of its employees, and those employees are only as good as the leadership guiding them. To develop a leadership team and employee pool that runs smoothly and produces consistently, development of an effective training strategy and plan detailing leadership goals is imperative. It is also what is lacking in far too many businesses, from small local enterprises to large corporations.

Money Pit

The amount that American companies spend on employee education and training is astronomicalOpens a new window : about $160 billion in the U.S. and nearly $356 billion globally. Performance analyses reveal the return on this investment to generally fall flat of expectations. The training and educational strategies implemented usually don’t last, with leadership slacking off the training goals and employees reverting back to doing things the way they always have.

Too often, those who participate in corporate education and training programs report that their working environment isn’t conducive to implementation of strategies they’ve learned in HR-backed training and leadership programs. HR departments continue to pump money into training in the hopes that something will stick. What’s needed is a new approach to HR training and development.

Why Training Fails

One of the main downfalls of HR training and developmentOpens a new window is the assumption that all employees and management personnel are created equal. An HR strategy based on a “one size fits all” mindset is doomed to fail. Too many HR departments work off the premise that a set group of skillsOpens a new window or a specific leadership style is the only way a successful business can function, regardless of the business model, organizational culture, corporate strategy or specific directive from the CEO.

When looking at factors behind the failure of HR development and training, specific reasons are identifiable. Simply put, they are:

  • Trainees are unsure why they’re training.
  • Training sessions and development programs are boring and childish.
  • Legally required or policy-motivated training feels like punishment.
  • Not enough time; allocation of time is insufficient for effective learning to take place.
  • Not all experts are capable of teaching effectively.
  • Isolating learning to a classroom instead of utilizing mentors, coaches, on-the-job training or rotation of job assignments.

Developing Successful Training Strategies

If your business is to succeed, the skills your employees bring to their jobs must be complete, up-to-date and competent. Investing in quality employee developmentOpens a new window is one of the more critical investments you can make in your business.

Whether you’re designing a training program or a stand-alone development event, make sure you’re doing all you can to ensure your efforts result in successful training. There are a few guidelinesOpens a new window that can help.

  • Determine what you need. Make certain the type of training you plan meets your requirements when designing a training plan.
  • Identify where your employees have a gap in skill levels. Assess your job descriptions to determine if your current employees’ abilities match their individual position’s skill requirements.
  • Set your priorities. Determine if the training you’re planning needs to be mandatory or optional. Make certain any training deemed mandatory is actually absolutely necessary rather than training that enhances a favored ideological topic.
  • Choose the type of training. Decide if you’ll use internal, or in-house, resources for the training sessions, or external resources. Professionally developed seminars, private trainers, formal conferences and videos are methods for training and often yield good results. External resource training is usually more expensive, however.
  • Employee commitment. Before starting a training program, make certain that your senior staff agrees that the training is a top priority. Your leadership teams need to fully support the plan and agree to the dates for training, departmental costs and milestones completion. Explain to employees why it’s important to participate in the training and the goals of the plan.
  • Assess impact of the training. The effectiveness of training isn’t always determined by the bottom line. For example, if the end goal of the training is to diminish customer complaints, you can track the number of complaints received before and after the training session. Remember why you initiated the training, then determine if it was remedied.
  • Be patient. Changes rarely come overnight. Training benefits may not be obvious immediately, as most training is a long-term investment.

Successful Employee Training

Whether your training strategies are targeting lower-level employees or management leadership, there are specific componentsOpens a new window of your HR training strategies that can foster a successful learning experience.

  • Goals of the training or development program are clear.
  • Develop the knowledge, abilities and skills taught using employee input.
  • Learning program includes activities.
  • Recognize employees as a resource for knowledge and experience.
  • Use of real examples as part of a practical and problem-centered approach.
  • Employees have opportunity to practice what they’re learning.
  • Learning environment is respectful, informal, safe and supportive.
  • Emphasize positive self-esteem in learning opportunities.

Take It Forward

A successful model for HR training and leadership development acknowledges that businesses are essentially groups of systems interacting with each other. The business structure, organizational processes, leadership style employed, and people’s professional and culture backgrounds delineate the business structure, organizational processes, the leadership style employed, and people’s professional and cultural backgrounds.

HR policies and practices provide a defining framework on which employees and management can build a successful working environment. The system of training a business employee has to change as the need arises. If it doesn’t, it won’t provide the support individual employees need to adapt to the ever-changing environment that is the business world of the 21st century.

An effective, properly planned and implemented training and leadership development system that doesn’t support individual growth and enrichment sets employees and businesses up to fail.