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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Maximizing the Benefits of Your Training Money

While many companies realize the importance of training in improving employee performance, many are also frustrated by the apparent lack of return in training investment. While there are several reasons why this is so, ( I plan to discuss everyone of them soon) I’d like to discuss one particular reason that you can do something about if you are the person in charge of human resources development in your company.

In many organizations, the success of Training Department is measured by the number of training hours served, smiley sheets and training requests served. A lot of training managers seem to veer away from measuring return on investment and I understand them. A lot things happen after training that are beyond the training manager’s control. We of course “wish” that whatever are learned in the classroom, are applied to work, unfortunately, that is not often the case.

In order for this situation to change, I believe that some “paradigm shifting” is necessary. (I can already imagine you rolling your eyes and say “there goes that tired old HR lingo again!”)

Here are my recommendations:

  • Understanding the roles of line managers in identifying training needs, participating in the selection of training provider and content and supporting the application of skills after the training should form part of the line manager’s position charter. In fact it should be part of their performance goal - to see to it that training is applied. All too often, many managers feel that their responsibility is fulfilled after they send employees to training. After being sent to training, it is all up to the participant if they will apply the learning or not. Talk about a potential waste of money!

  • Line Managers should be trained in the concepts of training. They should understand it so they could distinguish a training need from a totally different kind of need. Not all performance gaps are learning gaps. But not many managers now that. Sometimes, training participants complain that skill is not their problem but the system. Some even go as far as saying that the boss is the problem… tell me this is not true.

  • What constitutes a good training program? A line manager who has a good idea of the performance he wishes his employees to demonstrate should see that the program being offered is aligned with his expectations. A line manager should see, scrutinize and turn the training upside down to find out that this is what his employees need. I believe this is of utmost importance. Managers, should only send employees to training that contain concepts and methods they support. Otherwise, it should be a no go. I mean, how can you support an idea that you don’t agree with.

  • Make the managers accountable for the learning transfer. They made the company spend for the training, let them be accountable for ensuring that it translates to performance improvement.

  • Managers should meet with the employees after the training, take inventory of the learning and have them commit on an action plan to implement them and then offer to support them all the way.

  • Training encourages change, and you know how people feel about change. When employees attend training, especially public training. They go back to their work teams with a “better” view of how to do things. Often, the new view is not welcome because it means that others who did not attend the training must change their views as well. To expect participants to lead the change is a tall order considering that, well, the other employees didn’t attend the training hence, they do not have a complete appreciation of it. Here’s my recommendation if you cannot afford to send everyone to training. Before sending a participant to the tell the person that she has the responsibility of echoing her learning to the other employees. You might even want to go as far as announcing to everyone that you expect change to happen after she attended the training and that the other employees can expect her to do some echoing and then you as a group will discuss how to move forward with the new information. This move emphasizes to the group that attending the training is a serious responsibility and that you are also serious about getting the most out of it.

  • Put all these together in a systematic performance management strategy and I can assure you some significant returns on your training money.

Now my question is… how good are you at running away with an idea?

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