By answering a few fundamental questions, training can be improved and better aligned with organizational goals
By Brian Kreissl
On the whole, training and development specialists do a great job delivering training programs. Whether they have HR, teaching, corporate training, organizational development or line management backgrounds, the trainers and facilitators I’ve come across have generally been really good at presenting material.
These folks are great communicators. They have to be “on” at all times and be upbeat and positive. Trainers need a lot of tolerance and patience. They also need to be good at staying on track and dealing with distractions. Having done some training and facilitation myself, I have a great deal of respect for these people. Training can be a tough, stressful and thankless job.
Unfortunately, there are some major problems in the way training is structured, designed and developed in many organizations. But that’s not always the fault of the trainers themselves. In many ways, the problems are more systemic in nature, and need to be addressed at a much higher level in the organization.
Training could be dramatically improved if HR executives and business leaders got back to the basics. Taking the time to answer a few fundamental (but sometimes uncomfortable) questions right at the very beginning when designing and developing training programs can help to create programs that are far more meaningful, targeted and effective:
What’s the value proposition for the training program? This means trainees need a clear answer to the question, “What’s in it for me?” How many times have you sat through a training course and wondered just why you were there or how the content was even relevant? Without establishing and communicating a clear value proposition, many training programs will be written off by cynical trainees who’d rather be elsewhere.
Are we sure the problem is even a training issue? Before rushing off and creating a training program, ensure you’ve conducted a proper training needs analysis. Don’t misdiagnose a problem as a training issue when it’s really due to some other factor. An employee – or an entire team – could be experiencing performance issues for any number of reasons, many of which are completely unrelated to a lack of training.
Are we even training people on the right skills? Again, completing a proper training needs analysis can help. Without understanding the root cause of suboptimal performance, it’s impossible to design a training program targeting the right issues.
Are we training at the right level and in the right format? Training shouldn’t insult the trainees’ intelligence. Conversely, it shouldn’t be too difficult or be convoluted in the way it’s structured or administered (such as through e-learning programs that are difficult to navigate or which frequently change platforms).
Do we have clear goals for this training program? It’s vital to establish clear learning outcomes for training programs right at the outset. What knowledge, skills and behaviours are trainees expected to acquire?
Is the training initiative somehow linked to overall organizational strategy? Training needs to be aligned with the organization’s overall strategy and the bottom line. Simply offering a training program because it’s trendy or fashionable won’t help the organization meet its overall goals and objectives.
Can we evaluate trainees on the desired learning outcomes? Trainees are increasingly being evaluated on what they’re getting out of training. This helps establish an incentive to take learning seriously and aid trainees in retaining and recalling information at a later date.
Are trainees going to have a chance to practice newly acquired skills on the job? There’s little use training someone to do something if he’s never going to be able to put that skill to use in the real world. I took calculus in high school, but since I’ve never had to use it in any job, most of that knowledge is long gone. Line managers need to be involved in training so they can understand what’s being taught and give trainees opportunities to practice and put that knowledge to use.
Is there any way of measuring the effectiveness of training? There needs to be some type of success measure to gauge the effectiveness of training. Calculating return on investment (ROI) on training programs is trendy, but can be notoriously difficult to do because soft skills are hard to quantify and because it’s usually impossible to determine if improvements are the result of training or if other factors are at play. However, it’s still important to evaluate the effectiveness of training, even if more qualitative means are used.
Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.consultcarswell.com.