Getting the Most Value for Your Training Dollars
By Vicki Anderson
Jul 24, 2002 - 3:05:00 PM
Are you one of the many executives who consider leadership development the responsibility of the training department? Think again.
It is your responsibility to set the direction and tone for how training will be used (or abused) in your organization. How would you answer the following?
1. Does the training we do in-house align with our corporate vision and values?
2. Do we make sure that outside training consultants align their program with our corporate vision and values?
3. Do we use any kind of formal assessment to ensure that the problem to be remedied can be fixed with training vs. process improvement?
4. Do people regularly use the training ideas they receive at our expense?
5. Are people positively reinforced when they do apply the learning they received during training?
If you can answer even two of those questions with a yes, you are unusual.
Training departments are often asked to justify their training efforts to show a return on investment. Unfortunately, trainers present programs as requested by management but they are only able to affect the time employees are in the classroom. Prior to training and after training, it is management who has the most impact on whether the training provides any return on investment. Even the most energetic, awe-inspiring, knowledgeable
presentation is subject to the final chapter written by management involvement.
Align your training with corporate values and vision.
Many companies have developed their own corporate universities. Having developed and led such an organization for three years, I believe the main reason for having a corporate university is to ensure that all training
coordinates the message your employees hear and see so that everyone operates with the same assumptions. However, you can get the same result as a smaller company with a focus on your culture needs. A strong culture is created when everyone knows the company’s vision so they can align
themselves with it. A strong culture is created when the company’s values permeate everything they do and these values are aligned with employees’ personal values.
Whether you have a formal corporate university or not, all training that is conducted inside your organization should be aligned with your vision and values. The content of multiple courses can be dovetailed so the information is reinforced from one segment to another. Repetition is
important to learning.
Avoid the temptation to hire outside consultants to present their “flavor of the month” program just because the company down the street did it. Before hiring outside consultants to perform training inside your organization,
make sure they are familiar with your vision and values and the proposed training aligns with them. Ensure that the new program is a good fit to your overall plan. Your training department should be involved when hiring
outside consultants to ensure that they are not duplicating other in-house efforts.
Ensure development efforts are planned with a purpose.
When someone asks to attend a training session, ask four questions:
1. What makes you think you need training?
2. How would training improve your ability to perform?
3. How did you decide on the training you are proposing?
4. How will you use the information you receive?
By asking these questions, you may seem like an ogre and someone who is against training, but you will actually be more supportive of training than most management. When people realize that in order to be approved, the training must be useful, it will become more respected as a part of your strategic plan for leadership development. Let me tell you, the training department will jump for joy!
Many people believe training is the first line of defense in fixing a problem. However, an astute manager knows that training only works if there is a lack of knowledge or skill. If the problem is the process, there will be no way that training can fix the problem. Ask this question, “Could the person do the task if his or her life depended on it?” If the answer is yes, then it is a process issue. Training will be a waste of time and money.
Once you determine that training is needed, options should be explored to find the best and most cost effective training solution. If your employee is in a position to recommend the training needed, ask questions to ensure
the homework has been done to select the best solution. If you have a training department, they are an excellent resource for finding the best training provider.
Ensure that the person requesting training has thought about how it will be used. This is a vital ingredient for getting a return on your training investment. Training participants who go into a training session anticipating a specific result will learn much more than those who go into
the session to learn “whatever they can.” They will look for applications to their situations and this application is the difference between a passive and active learner. On which would you rather bet your money?
Follow-up after the training.
When your employees return to work after the training, ask them what theylearned. Ask them if they learned the information or technique they expected to get. Then, ask how they plan to use it at work. Ask them for a report on their progress within a couple weeks or other period as
appropriate. (Think return on investment!)
If it is appropriate, ask the employee to give a report to others in the department or to say a few words at the next staff meeting to share what they learned with others. Good learning methodology says that you retain information longer when you have to turn around and teach what you just
If you are doing a big training initiative throughout the company or throughout your department, make sure to follow-up individually or in groups after the training to ensure people know you expect them to use the training.
Model and use the skills yourself if possible. You are the key to skill transference. Employees are always looking to their management for guidance on how to act. If their manager shows a positive business attitude toward training, that attitude will follow to the employees.
Reinforce use of knowledge and skills acquired.
You have to look for good performance because as we concentrate on fixing problems, we tend only to see the mistakes. Positively recognize whenever people use the new skills learned. Whether it is working as a team player
or welding a pipe or reading a blueprint, you get what you reward. Make a point of looking for skill improvement and say something positive about it. Write a note or mention it in a staff meeting. The important point is to do something that will promote more good behavior.
Give people credit on their performance appraisals for continuous personal development. Employees who are excited about learning will help you build a company of growth. They will bring you other good opportunities for learning and improvement.
You are the beginning and the end.
As you can see, training is only a piece of the process. The improvement in the knowledge and skills of your employees requires your involvement. You cannot delegate it to someone else. You must set the stage for training to
be useful and you must reinforce its use at work following the training. You will be rewarded with high value training efforts.
Vicki Anderson developed and directed a corporate university for an international aerospace company. She works with organizations to develop top-notch leadership and communication skills for increased performance and
profitability. 918-252-1027, www.andersonresources.net
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