Per the Association for Talent Development (ATD), most companies set goals and budgets each year for talent development. ATD’s research on 2015 training spending found that US organizations spent an average of $1,229 per employee. Spending does vary by profession; for example, sales training averaged $1,459. As for market research professionals? Alas, not broken out in the ATD study. Still, given the data we have, we can assume that most organizations that provide professional development for their market research and insights teams average at least $1,000 per employee per year.
So, the question becomes: will I get more bang for those one thousand bucks from ad hoc training, or continuous training?
As with most things, the answer is: it depends.
Pros and Cons of Single Classes
Single classes are a great option if you need “just-in-time training.” Having a team member get training in a skill right before they need it forces them to apply the new knowledge immediately. And that helps with retention. Ad hoc classes are also often useful when trying a new methodology or tool for the first time; the virtual classroom is a safe place to try something out with some guidance before using it on the job.
However, “just-in-time training” can also turn into “hit-and-run training.” It’s fast, and risks falling short of the depth needed. Especially if the team member has gaps in their foundational knowledge, the single class often ends up being a waste of time and money. Why? Many “hot topic” training classes assume a minimum core set of skills and knowledge. The content is designed accordingly, and the underprepared student gets quickly lost, and even bruised in the process.
Pros and Cons of a Twelve-Month Plan
In some cases, a better choice is continuous training. A 12-month training plan can be catered to either the employee who needs a foundation, or the one who is looking to level up their skills for career advancement.
Continuous learning for team members also has a momentum effect, due to two known student behaviors:
- Learning efficacy. Research shows that people who have regular training opportunities develop a learning mindset—they get more out of training. Of course, we also don’t want it to become excessive: training should support productivity, not become a hindrance to it.
- Employee satisfaction. When employees know, their managers are making long-term investments in their professional development, they feel engaged and satisfied. Indeed, as many researchers know, various studies have found that training is correlated to employee engagement.
When is continuous training a poor investment? If the skill requirements for your team are changing rapidly and such that it’s hard to predict what skills they will need even just six months from now, a 12-month plan will be overkill. And let’s be honest: if management isn’t going to be supportive of the employee taking time on a regular basis for training, why bother?
What’s the Best Choice for Your Market Research Team’s Professional Development?
For your team, will you get more bang for your professional development buck from ad hoc training, or continuous training? If it’s a just-in-time training need, investing in one or two classes a year may be the best ROI. If your team members need foundational knowledge or are preparing to ramp up for career advancement, it’s more effective to invest in continuous training, and a 12-month plan will likely be the best option (this is true whether you get it from Mahandru Associates or not, all training companies give volume discounts, etc.). In either case, budgeting at least $1,000 per team member per year will put you on level with other professional market research and insights teams.