Editor's CommentaryFrom the monthly column: Competing Ideas
Few people will openly argue against the benefits of training employees. After all, training is a proven way of increasing an employee’s skills. Yet, when it comes to the actual process of training, there are many different points of view on how to proceed.
There is never a perfect time to train employees. One company might say it is too busy to free up the people who need to be trained. On the other hand, when the company is slow it might be concerned about absorbing the costs associated with training and choose to wait until business picks up. Even a company that is moderately busy can probably find an excuse to put off training. Some of the more creative excuses I have heard for delaying or avoiding training altogether are:
“Our employees are low skilled and would not understand the training.”
“Our employees cannot speak, read or write English.”
“We are good at learning on our own.”
“We don’t have any areas in the company to do training.”
“If we train people and improve their skills, they will leave us and make more money somewhere else.”
Yet, for every excuse I have heard for not proceeding with training, there are strong reasons for making a commitment and getting started, such as:
“Our employees are always grateful for the opportunity to learn new things.”
“The training we do has a direct tie to gains in productivity.”
“The more our workers understand something, the better their ideas are.”
“The training takes time, but we have no choice if we are going to improve the company.”
“The more our employees know, the greater their chances are to get ahead in our company.”
So here is the training dilemma: How do we overcome the negative perceptions about training and begin to realize its benefits? The answer is to effectively plan and manage the training process. This can be done by following these steps:
1. Define the type of training to be done, and set realistic expectations. This is the most critical step because it will establish the foundation for all training that will take place. If the training is hands-on, such as machine operation, the expectation is that employees will become more skilled in machine operation. This can be measured both during the training and at its conclusion. If the training is classroom-based, and new concepts, processes or procedures will be learned, the expectation is that the learning will be applied to the business. In this case, training should lead to a measurable benefit such as cost reduction (or containment), quality improvement, improved customer service levels or some other metric important to the company. Clearly, expectations shape outcomes. If there are no expectations of how the training will help, that training should not be done (at least not at this time).
2. Select the participants. If everyone cannot be trained at once, determine who would benefit most from the training and achieve expected results fastest. Early training success can motivate others to participate the next time the training is held. In addition, those who learn new skills are likely to champion further training and perhaps serve as training resources in the future.
3. Schedule the training. Training should be scheduled as far in advance as possible. Although things can happen that might force a postponement, there is a greater likelihood that the training will take place as scheduled if sufficient notice is given to participants, their coworkers and their bosses. Just as companies schedule employee vacations in advance, they should also schedule training to ensure work still gets done.
4. Record the training that has been completed. Most companies have some type of document showing the type of training that was done, when it was completed and who participated. Such documentation can then be organized by department and by employee to provide a quick reference for company management.
5. Evaluate the training. Did the training meet the expectations initially developed (both short- and long-term)? Was there a pattern of feedback from the attendees (valuable), or just one-off comments offered (typically not so valuable)? Does the length of training, or how it was scheduled, need to be modified for future sessions? On the whole, are there opportunities to improve the training, and can those improvements be easily implemented?
Training is important, but planning and managing this training can be challenging. Consider the five-step process outlined above to help you get the most out of your training efforts.