4 things I wish every CEO and leader would understand about L&D programs


Written by Kieran Canisius

Kieran brings together vendors, investors, growth, clinical and subject matter experts at the forefront of their life science specialties to energetically support clients in overcoming their challenges and find new strategies for success.

January 31, 2023


I’ve been thinking about how we, as CEOs and company leaders, are adamant about investing in learning. Yet somehow, we often end up purchasing a solution that does not have the desired change we envisioned within our organizations.

We want to support the well-being, growth, and development of our employees but our good intentions and the execution often don’t align. We end up wasting money on off-the-shelf, one-size fits all corporate training that does nothing to embed real, tangible change, inspire growth, or engage our employees; instead, it ticks a box and becomes just another budget line item.

You’d honestly be better off taking your employees out for lunch, encouraging them to speak openly and truly listening to what they say; that kind of human connection is far more valuable than any off-the-shelf training package.

So, before you spend thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, on traditional corporate training packages, if you want to see certain changes within your organization, think about these 4 things.

#1 The real need

First, why are you investing in organizational learning and development? Because you need to; because it’s trendy; because you want to develop your people, attract new employees, and the list goes on. Uncover you’re why and what you want to develop, but more importantly, understand what your people really need to achieve the behavior or learning you are searching for.

There must be listening from you and a genuine understanding of your people’s needs and why those needs exist in the first place. Only then can you truly unlock what type of learning and development will meet their expectations and your business needs.

Every person’s or team’s needs may be different, and standard corporate training will only act as a band-aid; it often won’t drive or embed any significant organizational change or personal development because it doesn’t address needs on an individual basis or adapt to changing needs during the learning process.

#2 Buy the training, and off you go

Purchasing off-the-shelf training or access to online development platforms might be a great, easy option for organizations; after all, they promise transformation, on-demand learning, and much more. You buy it, give access to your employees, and off they go, learn and develop away. Right? No.

The problem is these types of tools often explain general principles and then expect people to go off and embed them within your organization or within their roles on their own.

There’s no alignment or accountability here; firstly, you’re presuming your employees will be able to take a few generalities and apply them to their own situation just the right way.

Secondly, we’re assuming that this training will work for everyone in the same way, that they all have the advanced skills and knowledge to take these insights and make significant transformations happen within their roles and across your organization.

It’s costly and ineffective unless incorporated into wider activities such as giving and receiving feedback with colleagues and managers, performance development initiatives, career growth and planning, and more.

#3 Your approach

It’s usually the board that decides where the investment is spent and which growth path needs to be taken; the problem is this doesn’t ensure employee buy-in. It’s legitimate to impose the overall what and the direction, but probably self-defeating to try and dictate the how and the micro-modalities without listening to each department’s and division’s cultural heartbeat.

It can be tempting to simply buy an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all training package and expect it to work its transformative magic. Who doesn’t like a quick fix if there’s one to be had?

If you try to embed easy, general truths into a complex, underperforming system, you’ll soon find that a one size fits all actually means one size changes the behavior of none.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not taking a dig at any package or guru. I am an avid learner of both methods. However, when you do it for a larger group in the same way, trying to make nuggets of general wisdom fit into an organization’s multi-layered culture is a bit like buying a book on the General Theory of Plumbing when your drains are blocked—Better just call in the plumbers. The book is not the key here; it is asking an expert with the expertise, tools, and capacity to assess and tackle the problem while adjusting their approach as they find new challenges to tackle.

#4 Embedding the learning 

The best traditional corporate training programs will amount to zero if there’s no one around to do the grunt work that’s also required—the embedding.

Yes, theory is key, and transferring knowledge is crucial—but they’re just prerequisites to the main act: embedding the know-how and then applying it so growth, change, or something actually happens.

That simply cannot be done with a one-size-fits-all approach; your organization is a unique, living, breathing entity, and your challenges will be completely different from the business next door.

You need a learning and development program that will assess your needs and people and build a unique approach that embeds learning on a cultural level.

A program that will dive into your organizational culture, cultural resistance, and old habits, whether bad, good, or indifferent, and discover what makes the people in a department or a division tick, then apply a tailormade training solution, preferably one that’s agile and bitesize, so it can embed and develop as your people and organization grow. 

So what’s the bottom line, you ask? I’m just hoping more CEOs and company leaders out there stop throwing money into programs and packages that will not develop skills and transform organizations. Instead, reevaluate why they are investing in corporate training in the first place and take a calculated, strategic and tailor-built approach that will yield actual impact.


Interested to understand how Seuss+ has learned these lessons? Take a look at our UniQure case study and see what happened when they told us they wanted to drive products in their pipeline more efficiently. The work we did with them in making that happen is a really good example of how we embedded a collaborative mindset into a company’s genes.

Kieran Canisius



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