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How do you go about approving and following up on employees' training, coaching and development opportunities?

Training, coaching and development are big business, costing an estimated $136 billion annually in North America. Most leaders determine as a part of their role what and when employees get to engage in development opportunities. Different sectors and jobs put different emphasis on people development.

Employers looking to retain and develop knowledge workers, for example, typically allocate budget dollars to training, coaching and development, above mandatory training that covers policies such as harassment.

Following is a triple-A framework for maximizing people-development dollars and opportunities.


Regardless of their generation, most knowledge workers are interested in training, coaching and development when they understand the reason and value.

  • Make the process for deciding to use professional development budget dollars transparent to all employees.
  • Let your team know that you understand the value of professional development and that some employees are more confident to self-advocate. Use one-on-one sessions to discover the kinds of professional development each employee wants, so that both of you can look for opportunities that make sense and are within budget.
  • Before sending an employee to any kind of development opportunity, one best practice is to be crystal clear on both the tangible and intangible reasons and the value of the investment for both employee and employer.
  • Once the value has been established, never assume that the proposed adult learning strategy is a good fit for the employee. Discussing with them how they best learn can help decide on the most effective learning medium that matches their learning style, such as classroom, online or with a coach. It may be impossible to find the perfect match, but talking about it can help shape how the employee will get the most out of the opportunity.


Leaders can provide employees opportunities for learning; however, each employee is accountable for maximizing their learning experiences. It's a best practice to assign this accountability and not assume that it's in place.

  • Ask the employee, as a condition of being funded, to frame their desired learning objectives and how the opportunity will help them in their job, as well as how they suggest measuring impact.
  • When asking an employee to provide their rationale, it’s wise to focus and listen to how they respond. Be open, and evaluate who you are interacting with and their role in the organization. For example, if an employee who is has high potential says it will help keep them motivated for the next six months, this may be enough.
  • The point to keep in mind is that there may be one situation where you’re looking for a clearly defined return on investment, and in others a way to keep employees engaged, interested and learning in their current roles. There may not always be a clear ROI. However, the sustainability impact to an organization to retain top talent, build loyalty and show that the organization is committed to the employee’s long-term development can be good value when considering replacement costs, lost productivity and loss of tacit knowledge.


Once the development opportunity has been approved and the employee is on their way, it's helpful to plan their follow-up action plan and when you will work with them to evaluate the impact and benefits.

  • Ensure the employee knows the degree of expectations for follow-up and reporting when they complete their training, coaching or development opportunity. Set the follow-up date so there are no surprises.
  • During the follow-up meeting, it’s critical to demonstrate that you are indeed interested in the employee’s experience and learnings. Trust and respect are at the core of the employee-manager relationship. Leaders who authentically show interest in their employees’ learning are investing in this relationship. As well, this is an excellent form of covert professional development where you can obtain a few gems that may help you.
  • Close the loop with the employee on the tangible and intangible values of training. If there’s a desire to have a return on investment, set this up before the training starts and be clear that you are using a defendable methodology and can get access to the data needed to calculate the ROI.
  • An excellent closing activity is to get the employee to write a recommendation – good or bad – on the value of this type of development opportunity.
  • Monitor the benefits of the investment to the organization through observing the employee’s performance, results, attitude and retention.

Executives and human-resources experts share their views in the ongoing Leadership Lab series. Find more stories here and follow us @Globe_Careers.

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