Breakthrough ideas for training (HR Manager's Bookshelf)

Whether an HR professional is new to the field of learning and development or an experienced practitioner seeking new perspectives and resources, the books reviewed below offer a wealth of insight and guidance on roles, approaches, effectiveness and improved results.

Four titles from U.K. publisher Kogan Page deal with the nature of HR development in organizations, the skills and challenges involved, a fresh look at the learning organization and breakthrough ideas for training and coaching.

We also take a look at recent books on Internet-based training, performance solutions that align with business goals, measuring ROI in public sector HR, and performance improvement.

Learning Unlimited
By Alastair Rylatt, 308pages,
Kogan Page (2nd ed., 2001), ISBN 0-7494-3544-5. Distributed by Stylus Publishing, 1-800-232-0223,

A decade ago, the “learning organization” concept caught on and became a buzzword. This book, subtitled “transforming learning in the workplace,” follows up with insights on workplaces that “transform from a culture that sponsors isolated and fragmented learning to one that radiates empowered and never-ending discovery and inquiry in every aspect of organizational activity.”

The author calls for a new mindset encompassing a commitment to learning in the context of the demands of change, knowledge work and organizational leadership. The integrated and inter-connected approach is outlined in chapters that outline proven strategies:

•identifying business requirements and the link with workplace learning;

•gaining and maintaining support from powerful stakeholders;

•ensuring accountability through performance management;

•aligning HR systems and stamping out practices that alienate learning;

•benchmarking best practices;

•building on a competency-based model;

•using digital technologies;

•embracing team learning;

•building learning communities; and

•promoting mentoring and coaching.

The Human Resource Development Handbook
By Pat Hargreaves and Peter Jarvis, 211 pages, Kogan Page (revised ed., 2000), ISBN 0-7494-3223-3. Distributed by Stylus Publishing

Here’s a concise manual for those directly involved in training and development, whether they are HR development staff, health and safety experts or line managers with responsibility for staff development. Some of the terminology and references are U.K.-oriented but most of the content is valid anywhere.

Highlights include:

•insight into the numerous roles of trainers (strategist, manager, marketer, facilitator, instructor, counselor and evaluator)

•skills and expertise required

•systems and processes such as needs assessment, setting objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of programs

•information for HR managers about managing the staff developer’s role.

One section provides detail on the many facets of the training function: analysis, program design, delivery, evaluation and practicalities like preparing materials and using audio-visual aids.

Human Resource Development
Edited by John P. Wilson, 531 pages, Kogan Page (1999), ISBN 0-7494-3050-8. Distributed by Stylus Publishing

This is a comprehensive guide to learning and training for individuals and organizations with chapters contributed by academic experts, consultants and practitioners in industry, government and education in the U.K.

The first section covers the role of learning, training and development in organizations, placing the topic in context within HR management, organizational change, strategy and economic development.

Specific chapters on needs analysis, performance management and effective use of consultants address the identification of training and development needs.

A section on planning and design includes exploration of adult learning, workplace diversity and the concept of reflective practice including single and double loop learning and the role of reflection in training and development.

Assessment and evaluation are covered in chapters dealing with contemporary approaches, total quality training and accounting for the HR development function.

Leaders responsible for development will appreciate the final section of the book, covering management of the HRD function, marketing HRD and a look ahead to future trends, changes in society, work, learning needs and the importance of sustainability.

The book is aimed at practitioners and features numerous practical models, illustrations and checklists to supplement its clear explanations of the subject matter.

Accelerating Performance
By Sunny Stout Rostron, 248 pages, Kogan Page (2002), ISBN 0-7494-3642-5. Distributed by Stylus Publishing

Advice in this new book includes how to think like a star and act like a performer, brain fitness and, “Doing the dance: rapport and communication or stress.”

It’s a kind of participative tour of ways to break through limitations and it’s aimed at veteran trainers, performance consultants and career coaches looking for fresh approaches.

The author reveals how to breathe new life into your career with ideas and resources incorporating storytelling, drama, music, emotion, innovation, and facilitation.

Web-Based Training
By Margaret Driscoll, 348 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (2nd ed., 2002), ISBN 0-7879-5619-8. Distributed by Wiley Canada, 1-800-567-4797,

Excited about using the Internet for educational purposes? Confused? Overwhelmed? This expanded and updated edition of the original 1998 book recognizes the explosion of new developments in e-learning. It takes the reader through a discussion of the tactical and strategic advantages, as well as best practices, in Web-based training implementation.

The author guides us through needs analysis and selection of delivery methods, appropriate e-learning methods, designing synchronous and asynchronous interactions and evaluating programs once they are put in place. Appendices provide resource sites and conferences, an overview of software applications, a matrix of Web-based training types and a glossary that defines terms like streaming media, threaded discussions, affinity groups and electronic performance support systems.

Turning Research into Results
By Richard Clark and Fred Estes, 198 pages, CEP Press (2002), ISBN 1-879618-28-1. 1-800-458-4237,

In this book research findings carry the message that many performance feedback strategies actually make performance worse, while other popular approaches frequently fail, because:

•training is poorly designed and delivered;

•training feedback and evaluation methods are superficial;

•training is prepared by content experts who unintentionally give wrong or incomplete information;

•the popular MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) lacks reliability and validity; and

•more than 60 per cent of organizational strategies are quickly abandoned.

Chapters guide the reader to more positive results through linking performance goals and organizational goals; diagnosing performance gaps related to knowledge, skills, motivation and organizational issues; assessing progress and results; and learning from case studies in manufacturing, customer service and sales.

Measuring ROI in the Public Sector
Edited by Patricia Pulliam Phillips, 240 pages, ASTD (2002), ISBN 1-56286-325-8. 1-800-628-2783,

This book is the 25th in ASTD’s “In Action” series featuring case studies with a focus on measuring return-on-investment in the public sector. The cases include data converted to monetary value and methods for isolating the effects of the program being measured.

The cases include:

•competency-based assessment of managers and supervisors;

•ROI on a retention bonus scheme;

•workforce development ROI;

•absenteeism reduction; and

•training ROI evalutation.

Team Depot
By Glenn Parker,
460 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (2002),
ISBN 0-7879-6218-X.
Distributed by Wiley Canada,

This book and CD-ROM starts with a 100-item assessment guide to help the reader find what’s needed in this “warehouse of more than 585 tools to reassess, rejuvenate and rehabilitate your team.” Organized into “aisles,” readers can shop for exercises, activities, games, case examples, books and articles, videos, Web resources, assessment frameworks, advice and tips on:

•revisiting team goals;

•redefining roles;

•rejuvenating team meetings;

•rebuilding a climate of trust; and

•regaining member commitment.

While the book targets situations where a team has gotten off track or lost steam, it also helps an effective team maintain its edge.

Team Depot is written for:

•trainers and facilitators who need team-building activities and exercises to strengthen team competencies;

•managers, supervisors and team leaders concerned about team performance;

•project managers looking for tools and approaches to help a team come together and develop successful approaches; and

•HR practitioners, consultants and coaches responsible for setting up work groups or pointing them in a new direction.

Participatory Workshops
By Robert Chambers,
220 pages, Earthscan (2002),
ISBN 1-85383-863-2.
Distributed by Stylus Publishing,

Workshops, training sessions, conferences and team meetings all present the challenge of generating effective participation that fosters learning, buy-in and action.

There are tips on how to:

•avoid common mistakes and horrors;

•avoid lecturing;

•answer, and not answer, questions;

•deal with dominators and help the silent to talk; and

•encourage attitude and behaviour awareness and change.

This reference will be of value to anyone who wants to involve participants fully in a learning experience, help people to exchange information and learn from each other and achieve workshop objectives.

The book’s ideas are general in nature and have application in business or government training situations, conferences, seminars, community development and educational settings.

50 Creative Training Openers and Energizers
By Bob Pike and Lynn Solem,
159 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (2000),
ISBN 0-7879-5303-2.
Distributed by Wiley Canada,

Actually, there are about 60 innovative ways to “start your training with a bang” in this resource collection, organized into seven categories:



•team building;

•task tension;

•relationship tension;

•personal tension; and

•focus activities.

Most of the openers and energizers take from five to 15 minutes to conduct. They’re designed to help participants prepare for the learning experience.

Trainers and presenters will appreciate this book’s approaches to engaging an audience — especially if participants’ minds are wandering. Managers and meeting facilitators may also find some of the techniques valuable in kick-starting business meetings.

The book will appeal to readers who are planning content-oriented workshops and want lively approaches to starting sessions, freeing up emotions and discussion, helping participants engage with each other and dealing with barriers and tensions that may be at, or beneath, the surface.

50 Creative Training Closers
By Lynn Solem and Bob Pike,
116 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (1997),
ISBN 0-7879-3971-4.
Distributed by Wiley Canada,

The purpose of this set of innovative ways to end your training with impact is to avoid a dull finish that results in forgettable training sessions. The authors are concerned with “primacy” (the way things begin) and “recency” (the way things end) as important learning concepts.

The closers are organized into four categories or aims:

•review content;

•action planning;

•celebration; and


Examples include barrier balloons, crossword puzzles and keynote reviews and activities like role plays, skills/knowledge grid, mind maps and 60-second commercials.

This is a set of techniques and tools for trainers and presenters who want to end educational sessions with a strong learning or motivational burst of enthusiasm rather than a quiet “time’s up” or “thanks for coming.” The closers could even be used in combination so that there’s a focus on the content of the session (reviewing in a creative way such as a quiz) and the transfer of learning to the job.

Energize Your Audience
By Lorraine Ukens, 209 pages, Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer (2000),
ISBN 0-7879-4530-7.
Distributed by Wiley Canada,

How can you get a training session or facilitated group process off the ground effectively? What can you do about the energy lags from time to time, particularly after the lunch break?

Readers will find guidance on how to choose an activity or game. The activities are divided into three categories: icebreakers, energizers and group challenges.

Each activity is described in terms of its objective, time required, group size, materials, preparation, process, possible variations and discussion points. The facilitator’s role is outlined along with the importance of making the connection between the activity and the learning associated with it.

New trainers and facilitators will benefit from the activities in this book, along with experienced trainers who appreciate the importance of planning ahead and having some energizing activities ready for use. Anyone who has led a training or workshop session and who has seen the difficulty of getting through a sluggish interval when participants are fatigued will appreciate the value of:

•icebreakers like “Who am I?, Pick your partner, like a rock or animal attraction”;

•energizers like “thumbs up, talk fest, pandemonium, match mates or close calls”; and

•group challenges like “crossfire, ups and downs, fractured phrase or disorderly conduct.”

The Big Book of Stress Relief Games
By Robert Epstein,
203 pages, McGraw Hill (2000), ISBN 0-07-021866-8.

This is a collection of 50 activities and techniques designed to lighten up meetings and provide a break for individuals and work groups. Examples include:

•identifying ways to make the work environment less stressful;

•learning to fight burnout by planning small changes in the workplace or on the job;

•ways to use humour to improve unpleasant situations; and

•developing a time management plan to gain a sense of added time in the day.

The book is can be used by individuals as a self-help resource, whether at home, in traffic, at the office or at the speaker’s podium.

Trainers and group facilitators, team leaders and managers may find the techniques valuable for releasing tension during one-on-one or group meetings or problem-solving sessions.

Robert Epstein is editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, and he begins the book with an introduction to stress management and four sets of skills or competencies that one can develop to manage stress: reduce or eliminate the sources of stress; relaxation techniques; thought management; and planning and analysis.

Ray Brillinger is a senior consultant with the IBM Consulting Group. He provides change management, business transformation and organization effectiveness services to client organizations. He can be reached at (905) 316-8733 or [email protected]

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