Learning & Development

7 Challenges for Creating Development Programs that Work

According to Training Magazine’s annual report on training expenditures, U.S. organizations spent a total of $104.25 billion dollars on training and development in 2016. These learning and development initiatives range anywhere from traditional live training sessions to participation in outside seminars to training delivered through webinars, podcasts, or other technological means.


Despite the wide array of training options, delivery mechanisms, and formats available to them, training and development leaders continue to face an array of challenges as they attempt to bring employees the knowledge and information they need to really move the needle in some meaningful way for the companies they serve.
Keith Ferrazzi, CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight, a consulting and training company, conducted a review of research into learning and development programs, along with a survey of top training executives in companies ranging in size from $1 billion to $55 billion across a range of industries. Ferrazzi reported his findings in the Harvard Business Review, focusing on “seven challenges companies must meet to create development programs that really work.”
The challenges include:

  1. Igniting managers’ passions to coach their employees. It’s well known that employees’ direct supervisors and managers have a significant impact on their performance, but few are prepared or have the time, energy, or inclination to embrace that role. “Organizations need to support and incentivize managers to perform this work,” says Ferrazzi.
  2. Dealing with the short shelf life of today’s learning and development tools. The world is moving quickly these days, and training materials must keep up with those movements. That means that the cost of developing training materials can no longer be amortized over a long period of time. This means, says Ferrazzi, that organizations must look at training in a more continuous—rather than event-based—manner.
  3. Teaching employees to own their career development. Training and development is no longer something done to employees; the challenge lies in getting them to realize the role they need to play.
  4. Providing flexible learning options. On-demand and mobile solutions are increasingly in demand.
  5. Serving the learning needs of more virtual teams. Technology means that employees are no longer necessarily in the same place or even the same time zone.
  6. Building trust in organizational leadership. Ferrazzi cites an American Psychological Association survey that says that “one in four workers say they don’t trust their employer, and only about half believe their employer is open and up front with them.”
  7. Matching learning options to varied learning styles. Now that we have five generations in the workplace, Ferrazzi says, it’s even more important that organizations match learning options to preferred learning styles.

These challenges are not insurmountable, but they do require ongoing attention to finding new, cost-effective ways to address today’s workers’ learning and development needs.