Do you remember the days when you sent your staff-or maybe yourself-to attend "training" in some exotic location that was no more than a mini-vacation disguised as a learning opportunity? While training in exotic venues still goes on every day, the difference between the old days and today is there's an expectation that actual learning is taking place. The trip, albeit in a fantastic location, is most likely tied to improving or learning a new skill, a skill that will most likely be associated with a business objective. Training dollars are no longer spent for the fun of it.
Unfortunately, potential benefits from training seminars or workshops many times are lost because the supports required for the application of learning are absent even with good intentions for learning. We all expect that training will somehow impact a person's present or future ability to contribute to the employing organization. How do we make it so? How do we create a learning culture within our organizations that also has a positive impact on the bottom line with measurable results? We owe it to ourselves to get the most out of every learning opportunity-to be lifelong learners.
Getting value from training isn't magical. There are some general principles you can adapt to ensure training for yourself and your staff results in changes in the workplace.
- Training that adds value tends to be integrated with other management systems. That is, training decisions and actions are carried out with reference to performance management, strategic planning, or professional development. Training must be managed so it's planned and deliberately linked to workplace outcomes.
- Training that adds value actually has three components. First there's a training plan. Second, the training takes place. Most importantly, however, is the third component: follow up. Mechanisms must be in place to provide reinforcement for the learners to implement what's been learned.
- For training to add value to the organization, the infrastructure must be in place to support what the person has just learned. For example, training on the use of a computer-based word processor will only add value if the software and hardware is available and in place when the person returns from training. People attending a seminar on the use of effective management techniques will only be able to use what's been learned if they have sufficient time to do so.
It's essential for the management team to take an active role in the decision-making and follow up necessary to allow training to add value to the organization. By not doing so, resources may be wasted, and frustration can result. Training must be linked to both individual and organizational needs, and the barriers to the application of learning must be removed.
While training can be measured with dollars and cents, such as return on investment, there's an intangible side of training that exists. It creates a workplace culture that demonstrates it cares about people. This culture typically improves retention and productivity. Having a well-trained staff is yet another component in becoming an employer of choice. IBI