This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.
As a manager, you will experience pressure to send your people on training from at least three sources:
- Your HR, Learning or Training Department colleagues, who believe in training and maybe even have it as their corporate raison d’etre. (This, by the way, is not to suggest that training is not something to believe in, nor that it is not a good reason to be in an organisation)
- External training and development providers, ranging from the huge mega-corporations of training to the one man or woman training bands (can a band be one person – or is that a soloist?)
- Your staff who may variously want to develop their skills, build their career, stretch their mind, or have a day out of the business doing something different.
[Declaration of interest: the author is one of those training provider soloists – training is a good thing – buy more]
Qn 1: How to decide what training to procure for your staff, and whether to procure it
This is the first of two critical questions on this topic that a manager faces. The answer is that you need to think in business case terms:
What are the costs
What are the benefits
On the costs side, you need to weigh:
- cash cost recharged to your budget (and to the business as a whole)
- time out and disruption to work
- costs of any cover
- time to manage the process of making best use of the training (see question 2)
On the benefits side, you have:
- potential for enhanced skills, behaviours and performance
This one is critical and linked to the ‘what training’ part of the question
- morale, motivation and confidence boost
- effect on staff retention
This can work both ways, but if you are worried about the cost of losing a trained staff member, consider the cost of keeping an untrained staff member!
- informal networking and thinking time can generate creativity and new solutions or ideas
So, what training? The best approach is to commission the training you need, rather than procure the training that is offered. Sit down and list out the performance and behaviour changes you most want and most believe will deliver the results your team is required to produce. That is your training brief.
If you are unable to commission to a brief, then do the same, and compare what you have with what is offered. If the match is good, then move on to consider the other aspects of your business case: if not, say no.
Qn 2: How to get the best value from training you have procured for your staff
Training has most value when it is applied mindfully as soon as possible and as frequently as possible, once the trainee returns to their workplace. So:
Before the training, sit down with the trainee and discuss with them what they want to get from it and what you want them to get from it. This will prime them to spot what is relevant.
Put in place a plan to use that knowledge as soon as the training is complete – or even during the training if it is an on-going programme.
Once the training is over, meet up again. Ask what the trainee experienced, what they learned and how they propose to apply it. Discuss this with them and then review the plan you set up in advance.
Provide support for making the opportunities and frequently review how the trainee is applying their new knowledge or skills. Continually stretch them and give praise and recognition for valuable changes.
Development: it is more than just training
When thinking about developing your staff, there are literally dozens of interventions beyond ‘sending them on a course’. Yet that is always the default in many organisations. Here are a dozen to start with.
- On the job mentoring or coaching
- Job swaps
- Programmed reading and discussion groups
- Action learning
- Online learning tools
- Online reference tools
- Workplace seminars
- Work shadowing
- Case study or project work
- Supervision and reflection
- Professional communities – including online