When a farmer harvests a crop, be it grain, fruit or vegetables, it’s important to do so at just the right point of ripeness. That point will be exactly when it has received the right amount of sun and moisture. Too early and it won’t ripen to peak perfection. Too late and it will have spoilt. At that perfect point in development of the produce the farmer achieves the maximum return for the investment that’s been put in.

Think of formal training. As a manager, you want the maximum return on investment (ROI) of undertaking a training course. That is, you want to utilise 100% of the training content. Yet routinely the attendees of training utilise less than 50% of the content in a training course.

Why? Primarily it’s due to participant’s ability to fully engage with the content or topic. The trainer has a responsibility to make the topic interesting, manage various styles of learning and the variety of skills in the class, and help participants relate it back to their role; all of which increase engagement and knowledge retention.

So, it is important to choose quality delivery in training. However, you as a manager also have responsibility in getting your staff to their development peak to achieve an acceptable ROI from attending the training.

Preparing staff for training

To ensure your staff are ripe for learning, start with three simple actions:


Training content beyond the current subject comprehension level of a participant goes straight over their head. Whilst you want to extend subject comprehension through training there is no point teaching advanced accounting to a person with no accounting experience. That’s obvious.

The same rule applies to ‘soft skills’ training. It is easily overlooked due to a focus on the performance outcomes people would like to see, rather than the ability of the participant to comprehend the content.

Preparation: Be realistic about current ability of participants to comprehend the subject. Put in place internal coaching or projects to build basic comprehension, or take a two phased approach formal training solution. It may initially seem slower, but is guaranteed to be faster in the long run, and less frustrating and fraught with failure for everyone.


Underpinning skills are the additional talents required to be successful in a particular field. They are not taught directly in a training course, but individuals need to be proficient in them in order to fully implement the training. Years ago I attended training on developing email marketing, which required participants to be proficient in MS Word and Outlook. The course was solely focused on the marketing aspect which was impossible to implement without technical skill. Some of the participants did not have the required skills with MS Outlook and struggled,

Preparation: Think laterally about the performance you’re seeking. What is the range of skill and knowledge that will be required to achieve that? Will the individual attending training have the full breadth or is some additional development work required?


Ever watched a sports match and not had any idea who was winning because you just didn’t care? And yet when you watch your team play you can recite every point of action afterwards.

In a training course the “care” or “relevance” factor is important. If you don’t care about the subject or don’t see the relevance of it to yourself it’s very difficult to be engaged. Engagement is a key factor in maximising learning. When engaged you’re thinking about how the learning applies to you and translating it to how you’ll use it at work. Naturally you retain more and also come away with an action plan.

Preparation: Talk through the intended training with your staff; advise them where, when and how they will be applying their learning. Provide an internship opportunity where possible for them to see people in action using the skills and knowledge they are about to acquire. Pique their interest.

If you are a staff member, be proactive in asking about the relevance of the training to you. What are the expectations following the training? Provide yourself with a framework for understanding how you’ll apply it.

Now, having selected a quality training provider, you’re in shape for a great ROI.