My friend attended an offsite training program. On his return he raved about the food, the hotel he stayed in, the nice break he got from work and the interesting people he had met! Sure, these are some of the things we look forward to in a training program. Hey but there was something missing from his conversations. What about the learning? What about his increased ability/skills to contribute to the organization? I am sure you agree with me that a training program should give us value apart from the good feel factor. Unfortunately this does not happen every time. However, there are ways to ensure that individuals and companies get value for the time and money spent on training programs. While getting value from a training program is a shared responsibility between the individual and his/her manager, this article will look at what the manager can do to ensure his team gets value from training . There are three stages in training as illustrated below.
Training gives value when adequate steps are taken at all the three stages of training ie., the planning stage, the training stage and the follow-up or the post training stage.
Ensuring value from training for your team members
As a manager you can play a critical role in helping create the conditions during the planning and post training stages of training, under which training will create value for your team members.
There is a lot of planning to be done to ensure training gives benefit to your team. The actions to be undertaken during the planning stage are listed below.
- Integrate training with other people management systems: : Training should never be considered in isolation. Be sure it integrates with the performance management system and career development initiatives. It should address the needs of the organization and each individual. On a regular basis identify development needs of your team.
- Exploit any training opportunity that comes your way: If you want your team members to gain from training you need to grab all possible training opportunities for them. There’s more than one method and one skill to learn. Each training will help them build a specific skill and together they will help them develop in their profession. Also each method will build on the others and reinforce what they are learning. So do incorporate different methods in their training.
- Ask yourself is training required: Training typically can add value when it helps address a problem. But all problems cannot be solved through training, other solutions to the problem could be more appropriate. Training can help people learn skills, but is not that effective at changing attitudes, and will have minimal effect if the problem is related to other workplace factors. For instance a lack of understanding of your sales team of the CRM implemented can be solved by imparting training on the software. But resistance to using the software by them cannot be addressed through classroom training.
- Ensure training is matched to jobs: Any training must be planned, and clearly linked to workplace outcomes. Just because a training program is happening and it sounds good don’t nominate team members for the same. See if it is related to their job requirements and will help enhance skills needed in their jobs. A training program that will teach employees skills that are in demand in their profession or that they will utilize within one to two months of taking the class, is sure to prove valuable. Say the company is planning to use psychometric tests during recruitment, training your HR team on the same is beneficial.
- Understand the objective of the program and define expectations: Whether you have recommended your team member for a training program or your team member has chosen it, be clear on the objective of attending the program and provide this clarity to your team member so that he/she works towards achieving that objective. Also defining expectations clearly at the outset can really help. The expectations can be related to how you expect your team member to apply what he/she has learned and to share what has been learned with other team members. The expectation can also be in terms of what the trainee needs from you so that learning can be applied effectively at the workplace.
- Get team members to do some preparation in advance: Just sending the person for a training program will not help the person to get full benefit of the program. Make sure he/she meets any prerequisites for the training like completing the pre readings, assignments etc. He/she should know the objective of the program and how it is going to help him/her. He/she should also know enough about the subject to actively participate. It will be futile if the training is not appropriate for employees’ level of expertise, or if they lack enough experience and background knowledge.
- Choose the right program:
- Choose a program that fits in with the learning style of the participant: The VAK learning styles model suggests that most people have one of three preferred styles of learning. When one knows one’s preferred learning style(s) one understands the type of learning that best suits oneself. This enables one to choose the types of learning that work best for oneself. The three styles are as follows, (and there is no right or wrong learning style):
- Choose training that includes job simulations: Why is your team getting trained , not just to just pass an exam but to learn how to do their job well right? In that case it makes sense to choose a training that will provide them real work life experience. Find training that combines this hands-on experience with practice exams, expert video instruction, and written reference material for maximum benefit.
- Opt for self-paced training for greater flexibility for the team: There are some self-paced training like elearning modules that allows one to review the instruction until one has mastered it. And the best part is when the training is online; one can take it wherever one goes. This lets one work on one’s own schedule, pause to take breaks, and resume right where one has left off.
While as a manager you cannot make much contribution here, you can encourage the participants to do the following.
- Value the content of the courses more than the entertainment factor: Just because the trainer does not crack jokes does not mean that what he is saying is not useful. So, for starters the participants can value the content of the course more than whether it is engaging or not.
- Take a leaf from good students/learners: Have you observed what people who are fast learners do. They ask questions even if they think others might consider it as silly doubts. They participate actively and contribute. They are open to changing their past views on the subject being taught. They come with an attitude of ‘I am here to learn everything that you will teach me.’ instead of an attitude of ‘Let me see if you can teach me anything new.’ Discuss these points with your team before they attend any training program.
POST TRAINING STAGE
This is an essential stage where one tends to miss on taking action. It is important to take post training actions to ensure skills are absorbed. Also skills learnt need to be consolidated not through just formal training methods but more with post training actions .
- Assess Infrastructure: Prior to training, make sure that the infrastructure required to apply what your team members have learned is in place. Suppose if people attend a workshop on the use of a software, training will only add value if the software is available and in place when the person returns from training. Infrastructure need not be just things; it can also refer to time. Remove all barriers to the person applying what has been learned.
- Ensure practice of and application of what has been learnt in the classroom on the job: Now, this is the key to ensuring you actually benefit from training. Once the team member is back from the training, ensure he/she starts applying that has been learnt wherever he/she can. You must have discussions with your team members to ensure there is implementation of what has been learned in the training program. Get him/her to teach others. Get him/her to further build on the learning had through training. If you don’t ensure this the training would be a complete waste of your time and company’s money.
- Recognise efforts towards applying what has been learnt in training: A true test of the effectiveness of a training program is whether post training there is a positive change in an employee’s job performance. You must make it a point to monitor this change. And when he/she does apply what has been learnt, you must reinforce of his/her efforts. So if a person who has attended a program on quality makes effort to implement the leanings in his/her function, recognize his efforts and encourage him/her to do so.
- Conduct Training effectiveness evaluation: Apart from having taken training feedback from the participant the manager must ensure that he/she evaluates the training effectiveness after a defined period of say 3 to 6 months. This could be in the form of a written test or filling up a checklist based on your observation of the person.
Training is just a tool and it is the person using the tool that determines the effectiveness of the tool. Hence, before stating that a training program is ineffective do check whether you followed the steps given in this article. And next time there is a training opportunity for your team you know what to do. Simply PLAN! TRAIN! and FOLLOW UP!