So the finances are a bit tight and the Board are looking for savings. Why not cut the training budget – again. That is, if a training budget has been provided for in the first place!It is easy to take a short-term view, perhaps because, too often, the value of training is not always understood. It may even be that the management have become sceptical about training because in the past it has been carried out poorly or was done for the wrong reasons, in the wrong way or aimed at the wrong people in the first place.In spite of any perceived cynicism not many would argue with the proposition that the majority of organisations that are truly successful, over the long-term, allocate significant resources to training and development. They do so, however, in a planned and effective manner, not just “training for training’s sake”.A regular theme of these monthly articles on various aspects of Human Resource Management is that, with very few exceptions, people are a company’s most valuable asset. More often than not it is people, not machines that can offer real competitive advantage. No sensible business would buy an expensive piece of machinery without training for those staff that are going to operate and service it. Yet many companies still recruit people and don’t give them a proper induction or promote / transfer staff (especially to supervisory and management positions) without due regard to their training and development needs.Let’s get rid of the jargonSometimes, jargon gets in the way of common sense. For example what are the differences between “education”, “learning”, “training” and “development”?Without resorting to extensive textbook definitions and accepting that there will be overlaps, a general guide could be as follows:Education is an activity which develops skills, knowledge, values and understanding to be used in all aspects of life.Learning is the process by which a new capability is gained. In addition the “learner” will normally understand why that capability is being learned.Training is related to specific skills and is a process aimed at changing behaviour, attitude and/or knowledge to achieve improved performance in one or more activities.Finally, development is targeted at a broader platform of skills, knowledge and abilities which, when combined should improve performance.For simplicity from this point onwards, we shall use “training” as a generic term to cover all aspects of learning, training and development.So, how effective is the training in your organisation?
Let’s try a short test. How many of these statements might be heard in your organisation?
1.There is an available place on a course. Who can we spare? 2.We have decided to run a training course tomorrow. Everyone has to attend.3.Sorry I haven’t time to attend that workshop on “time management”.4.To avoid disruption to the operation, you have to attend the evening seminar on “work life balance”5.He was such a good technician but he has failed to make the grade as a supervisor6.Why did she leave? She’s been doing that job so well for so long!7.Training is too expensive8.There is no point going on that course, it is boring and irrelevant9.The training was helpful but I am not allowed to put it into practice in the workplace10.Training, what training?Or perhaps things are not so bad. Maybe some of these more positive statements could apply
1.We understand the pressures on the operation so we plan effective training to coincide with quieter periods2.Having identified a need, we seek the best way to meet it3.Effective training and development is encouraged because it adds value4.Training has helped to fill key skill shortages5.Staff turnover has reduced since the training programme was introduced6.When we advertise a vacancy, candidates are keen to join us because we offer a good training and development programme.7.The recent change of operational methods went well, partly because everyone knew what they had to do8.We deliver training and development in a wide variety of formats, designed to suit the needs of the organisation and our employees.9.The training needs identified during my appraisal have all been met 10.My company is committed to developing its staff at all levelsA seven-point plan for successful trainingWhilst there are many models to describe the correct approach to designing a training programme we would suggest something along the following lines:
1. IDENTIFY TRAINING NEEDS The importance of identifying training needs cannot be overstated. All too often, the training is offered simply because it seems like the right thing to do without first finding out what it is that is actually required. The information needed to assess training needs can be gathered from a whole range of sources such as appraisals, recognised skills shortages, succession planning, the predicted effects of imminent change, exit interviews, the external labour market, legislation and many more. By taking all relevant factors into account and also by relating them to the organisation’s broader strategy it should be possible to produce a prioritised training plan.Any organisations training needs will inevitably be varied. They can be quite specific to a task, role or individual or equally, they can be fairly broad based. The following are just a few examples:Induction Specific technical, administrative or IT skills Specific training related to implementation of a new system or policy Individual job / task related training Marketing / Sales and Customer Service related skills Communication, e.g. report writing, telephone skills, briefing, meetings, presentations. Team building and leadership skills Personal and Interpersonal skills e.g. assertiveness, negotiation, managing stress and time management General management skills – a long list that includes delegation, implementing change, performance management, project management etc Human Resource Management, which includes interviewing, appraisal, employee relations, reward structures, employment law and training Financial management
2. DESIGN and PLANHaving identified and prioritised the training needs, the next stage is to design what training and development should be used to best achieve the desired results. Attention should also be given to the most effective way of delivering the training. There is an ever-increasing array of delivery methods which can include one, or most likely a combination, of the following methods:
On-job training Traditional classroom style delivery Workshop / seminar Activity based (possibly including outdoor activity) Individual / small group coaching Computer based – inc CD ROM etc.Video based
Which method is appropriate will depend on the circumstances at the time and what you are trying to achieve. Some training is best delivered over a single module i.e. this can be simply a one hour session or a daily, weekly course etc. The alternative is to offer a series of events, which does provide time between sessions to facilitate reinforcement and practice. Another major consideration is location i.e. whether it is better to deliver training on site, which is cost effective, or off site using a specialist training facility or hotel, which is inevitably more costly but does allow personnel to get away from possible interruptions and concentrate on the training. The next issue is, should the training be bespoke or general i.e. is there a need for the training to be tailored specifically to your company’s needs, thereby limited to employees of your company alone or is it of a more general nature that can be catered for via existing courses? The former can be very effective in making the subject matter directly relevant but it is also, naturally, more expensive.Finally who should deliver the training? Is there expertise “in house” that can be used to deliver part or all of the required input? Is there an established training programme that already fits the needs or can be adapted fairly easily?3. GAIN SUPPORT It is important to gain senior level commitment for all training initiatives. This commitment can be demonstrated in a number of ways, most obviously by using a director or senior manager to open and close the event. By demonstrating how the proposed training will fill key skill gaps, how it will help to improve individual and corporate performance, how it should reduce turnover and retain key staff, improve morale and, above all, add value, it should be possible to show that any cost is a sound and worthwhile investment. 4. PARTICIPATIONIt is vital that participants and their managers are fully involved in the process and that they understand why the training has been arranged and what it is that they want to achieve from it.5. DELIVERWith the right planning and co-ordination, delivery should be the easy part.
6. EVALUATEIt is important that participants are asked for immediate feedback on all aspects of the training. This should facilitate a review of the training i.e. it’s content, delivery and effectiveness, enabling a revision and improvement next time around. Also, after a short time e.g. a month but this will depend on the nature of the training, follow up again with the participants and their line manager to see whether there has been a positive result in the workplace.Wherever possible try to evaluate the effect of the training on the organisation. Depending on the nature of the training this will inevitably involve a degree of subjectivity but as long as the original objectives were laid out as clearly as possible at the outset some quantifiable benefits should be measurable. 7. REINFORCEReinforcement of the training can be done in a number of ways and should link into other aspects of the organisation’s “people strategy”. For example, staff development through secondments, transfer and promotion should recognise improved performance following training, as should any reward policy. Short follow up events can be useful to reinforce training and encourage continued communication between participants.Who should be responsible for training?Hopefully an appreciation of the importance of training to the long-term success of any organisation means that this should be firmly accepted at Board level. This should ensure that the real answer is that everyone shares a responsibility for training.In larger organisations there may be one or more training professionals, usually part of the Human Resources (or Personnel) department. They will know when it is appropriate to seek expert external help.In smaller companies, responsibility lies with senior managers but plenty of external help is available. Professional advice on training is available from many sources – inc MorePeople. And finally….To sum up, the long-term costs of not training can far outweigh any initial costs. There are many benefits such as staff motivation, improved customer service, reduce staff turnover etc which can be identified and evaluated if the training is properly planned. Training can help offset these hidden costs that result from poorly motivated and inefficient employees.Why not take a positive outlook on rest of 2006? Make one of your priorities this year a commitment to make the training and development of your workforce a priority. Invest in your human resources with the same degree of care and commitment as you do with the rest of the business and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results.
Peter HuntThis article has been provided by Peter Hunt a Director of MorePeople.Peter is a CIMA qualified accountant who started his career in 1982 with Armitage Bros in Nottingham. Peter went on to work in the Produce and Fresh Food sectors for the last 20years setting up MorePeople, specialist recruiters in the Pet, Produce, Horticulture and Garden & Leisure sectors, in 2000 with fellow Director Guy Moreton
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