team working together at wooden table

For over 40 years, CMOE has had the opportunity to talk with thousands of learning and development (L&D) professionals. Through these discussions, we have gained a comprehensive perspective of the training challenges they encounter and have combined this insight with timely data to present the following Top 10 challenges of training and development professionals—with solutions for each.

1. Dealing with Change
2. Developing Leaders
3. Engaging Learners
4. Delivering Training on a Consistent Basis
5. Tracking Skills Application
6. Instilling Conflict-Management Skills
7. Demonstrating Value to Leadership
8. Quantifying Training Effectiveness
9. Improving Learning Effectiveness
10. Adapting Training to a Varied Audience

team sitting at long table working on laptops

1. Dealing with Change

Organizational change is common and more challenging than ever. Navigating through changes related to mergers, acquisitions, technology, budgets, and staffing is the top challenge cited by L&D professionals.

How to Resolve

L&D professionals can work with leaders and others in the business to craft messaging and build development resources that support the “why” behind changes being implemented. This can help them:

  • Inject their training with the right purpose, tone, and message
  • Analyze the needs of the audience from a number of different perspectives
  • Effectively prioritize their initiatives to alleviate some of the stress and challenges change may bring

2. Developing Leaders

Many work environments face leadership-development challenges. It is crucial for organizations to develop leaders at every level—from team leads on the front lines all the way up to the CEO—to support their success and ensure that the business will be successful in the short and long term.

How to Resolve

Businesses that invest in leadership development are 2.4 times more likely to meet their performance goals. L&D professionals can proactively support this by:

  • Understanding the competencies that the business wants and needs in its leaders so that the organization is set up to meet its strategic and people-planning goals
  • Understanding what leaders want to learn about and providing them with opportunities to develop those competencies. This allows L&D professionals to customize leaders’ development journeys
  • Finding commonalities between what the business needs and the interests and personal goals of team members so that training can be both strategically motivated and personally inspiring
  • Collaborating with business leaders to create a learning roadmap that entails specific milestones along with short- and long-term goals

3. Engaging Learners

L&D professionals must communicate the value of learning and development. Too often, other urgent tasks seem to take priority while learning and development falls by the wayside. It’s a challenge to get learners to attend, actively participate, and follow through on their development assignments, and without clear prioritization or accountability measures in place, this is likely to continue.

How to Resolve

L&D team members should work with the HR and leadership teams to make learning and development an organizational priority. Ongoing learning should be a core organizational value and something that is both provided for current employees as well as built into the hiring and retention process. This can work through methods such as:

  • Making training job-relevant in a way that helps team members improve their day-to-day performance
  • Understanding the broader professional goals of individual employees and providing training and development opportunities that support those endeavors
  • Understanding the differences and similarities in learning styles and needs across generations of the workforce
  • Providing individualized development plans
  • Establishing learning pathways that naturally bridge from role to role in terms of complexity and level of responsibility
  • Establishing L&D as a company priority by incentivizing completion of learning modules (e.g., pay raise, additional PTO days, etc.)

4. Delivering Consistent Training

When a company is global or geographically dispersed, it increases the difficulty of providing consistent training. The most common challenges of training and development include geographic limitations, increased costs, language barriers, translation issues, and virtual training needs.

How to Resolve

L&D leaders can deliver training and development more consistently by:

  • Committing to communicating across different forms of media (e.g., phone calls, video conferencing, email, instant messaging)
  • Providing training opportunities that are driven by and built for the needs of the audience
  • Providing real-time feedback to accelerate training and performance
  • Building relationships with team members to promote camaraderie, authentic relationships, and open disclosure about the training they need
  • Scheduling time on a consistent basis to meet with and talk to the team about individual, team, and organizational goals

5. Tracking Skills Application

Demonstrating a training program’s “stickiness” or sustainability is challenging at best. L&D professionals must find an effective way to ensure skills are learned and applied in the real work environment—and that they are implemented over the long term.

How to Resolve

Build a skills-application assignment where you and your trainee establish and agree to a work project. This project should provide the team member the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned through their L&D training. A timeline should be set with applicable milestones so the trainee is accountable for completing the project. Once the initial project is complete, consider creating another assignment that builds upon those skills so that they stay fresh and relevant as the individual’s skills progress.

6. Instilling Conflict Management Skills

Successfully handling conflict can be difficult, even for seasoned professionals, but conflict management is a critical skill that simply cannot be overlooked. 85% of team members experience conflict in the workplace. If left unresolved, conflict can increase turnover, decrease employee morale, and impact the longevity and well-being of a business.

How to Resolve

L&D leaders should understand and develop training that helps employees explore and apply the five stages of conflict resolution:

  1. Define the conflict: Explore the situation and source of conflict.
  2. Watch for underlying issues: Call out underlying issues and help team members discuss the issues while keeping their emotions in check.
  3. Identify needs: Individuals share their needs and are open to finding solutions.
  4. Brainstorm possible solutions and goals: Team members identify solutions and goals they are willing to work on together to alleviate the conflict.
  5. Agree on a solution and implement it: Individuals share their commitment to a solution and map out the next steps.

7. Demonstrating Value to Leadership

Keeping employee training and development a top priority in an organization is challenging. It is often left to a few stakeholders and key leaders to determine how much learning is to be conducted, who gets the learning, and how much funding is granted for development purposes. Because of this, it is the responsibility of the training-function leader and team to have a long-term direction that will lead the training function into the future. This strategy should outline why the training function exists, who it serves, the value proposition it offers, and how it will create value over the next 2–4 years.

How to Resolve

Work with your customers/users (department heads, business-unit leaders, and others) to identify the emerging needs, challenges, issues, or pain points they are facing as it relates to the performance of human capital. Identify skill gaps in the talent pool and pinpoint what skills and competencies are needed in the workforce. Gather insights by using surveys, assessments, focus-group interviews, exit interviews, or other observational data. These insights will help you focus on critical practices that add value and improve organizational performance.

8. Quantifying Training Effectiveness

Many L&D professionals must demonstrate how training programs are making a quantifiable impact for the organization. By conducting quantitative assessments and linking metrics and measures to learning initiatives, L&D leaders can demonstrate a return on investment. For some organizations that have not established this practice, it can be quite challenging to begin measuring the return on investment in an effective way.

How to Resolve

The first step is to see if the organization has existing measures or KPIs in place that can be linked or tied to training initiatives. If not, you will need to prepare a list of possible measurement ideas to get started. While “hard” quantifiable measures are preferred, don’t discount the value of softer measures that may be less directly quantifiable.

Examples of hard measures:

  • Engagement scores
  • Team-member satisfaction scores
  • Reduction in turnover
  • Job-satisfaction scores

Examples of soft measures:

  • Attracting good talent to the organization
  • Reduced conflict
  • Frustration that has been taken out of a process, making the business a more enjoyable place to work

9. Demonstrating Value to Leadership

Ensuring that learning is effective, retained, and used can be one of the most difficult responsibilities of an L&D professional. There are often many topics that need to be covered in a limited amount of time. Likewise, there are numerous topics that may require extra creativity or unique delivery methods so that skill development can occur.

How to Resolve

L&D professionals should:

  • Ask the right questions and identify the desired outcomes. These should be prepared in advance to help L&D professionals stay on track and inject training sessions with the right focus.
  • Provide trainees with the opportunity to ask questions and discuss ideas as a group as well as give team members the space to reflect, assess, and explore. This is crucial for filling any learning gaps.
  • Be sure to include real-world, industry-relevant scenarios in your training and/or ask attendees to come prepared with some examples. This will help ground the training in their reality instead of it being too theoretical.
  • Consider alternative learning modalities such as micro-learning, lunch-and-learns, blended training, self-directed e-learning (with post-session development assignments for reinforcement), and others.

10. Adapting Training to a Varied Audience

As an L&D professional, you must anticipate that your training will be delivered to a diverse, multigenerational workforce. As such, it is essential that you take the needs, learning styles, experiences, worldviews, and preferences of your audience into consideration when designing training modules and development assignments.

How to Resolve

When planning, developing, and delivering learning experiences, engage in at least some of the following activities:

  • Have a good understanding of the broader goals of the training session and what the organization wants to get out of it.
  • Run focus groups and/or schedule 1:1 discussions with a cross-section of the population to be trained to get a better sense of what they feel they need and how to provide it.
  • Create learning objectives that align with the needs of the organization and the individuals in the room.
  • Use adult-learning theory and multiple learning modalities to appeal to a wider audience.
  • Take advantage of the diverse experiences and alternative perspectives in the training session. Encourage healthy debate and sharing of ideas.
  • Remind people to disagree with one another respectfully, when necessary, to encourage understanding and openness to new ideas.

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About the Author
CMOE Design Team
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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