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Training and Development: What a Manager Needs to Know

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

Pocketblog has gone back to basics. This is part of an extended management course.


As a manager, you will experience pressure to send your people on training from at least three sources:

  1. 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  something to avoid or be unenthusiastic about)
  2. 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?)
  3. 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]

Question 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 and

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.

Question 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 option in many organisations.  Here are a dozen to start with.

  1. On the job mentoring or coaching
  2. Job swaps
  3. Programmed reading and discussion groups
  4. Action learning
  5. Online learning tools
  6. Online reference tools
  7. Workplace seminars
  8. Work shadowing
  9. Case study or project work
  10. Supervision and reflection
  11. Professional communities – including online
  12. Conferences

Further Reading

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In Praise of Flip Charts

A recent experience led me to think about the use of visual aids in training.  Two training companies were described as being like ‘chalk and cheese’.

Chalk and Cheese

In this case:

  • one company’s courses are scripted and PowerPoint driven, and trainers appeared to treat participants’ questions as a nuisance.  Hmm.
  • the other company’s trainers welcome interaction and dialogue, and mix PowerPoint with a range of other ways to get their message across.  That’s better!

Visual Aids

It led me to think about the term ‘visual aids’.  Aids to whom?  Some trainers seem to consider that their slides are there to help them in their role as trainers.  Perhaps they need to re-think.  Visual aids should help the learners to learn, participants to understand, and the audience to remember.  And PowerPoint and its kin can be magnificent at this – when used well.  We’ll hold that thought for another day!

Flip Charts – the trainer’s friend

I will come out of the closet: I am a real flip chart lover.  I love them as a consultant, working through ideas and solving problems; I love them as a facilitator, capturing and sharing ideas; and I love them as a trainer, to explain, clarify and illustrate learning points.

PowerPoint is linear and pre-programmed: flip charts are infinitely flexible.  So here are some of my tips and techniques for getting the most from this fabulous tool.

Flip Chart Tips and Techniques

Wings
Lots of flipcharts these days have wings – extendable arms that allow you to fasten a finished sheet to either side of the main display.  This is great for displaying participants’ work when doing a review or even for creating wide screen HD flip chart displays.

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Pre-prepare
If you want to create complex images or drawings that you are not confident to draw ‘live’ then prepare a sheet with the drawing in light pencil (a 2H lead is ideal).  It will be invisible to your audience, but clear enough for you to follow the lines and appear to draw a fabulous image free-hand.  Ruled pencil lines also allow you to write in straight lines if this is not something that comes naturally.

Better, still, practise your drawings on a whiteboard.  Do them over and over until they become second nature, then you won’t have to pre-prep your flip charts!

Laminates
A great way to great more dynamism and use more powerful images is to create full colour printed images and get them laminated.  You can then attach these to your flip chart with blue tack and build up your image more quickly and more stylishly than you could draw it.  For example, create six coloured images of hats for when you want to facilitate a discussion about Edward de Bono’s six thinking hats, or illustrate different team dynamics for when you are explaining Tuckman’s model.

StickyNote Sticky Notes
You can use the oh-so-useful sticky notes in a number of ways.  A simple trick is to use them as marker tabs to help you quickly find a pre-prepared sheet quickly.  A favourite use is in exercises where you want participants to identify, then classify items.  If they write their ideas on the notes, they can then place them on the table or grid you or they have created on the flip chart.

Fonts and colours
For large amounts of text, lower case is easier to read, as long as your writing is very clear.  But do ask yourself: ‘are large amounts of text really appropriate?’ They rarely will be.  So upper case is often clearer.  Text should be in strong colours to create good contrast, and do use lots of colour in your diagrams to make your images interesting.

Caution – do not rely on colour contrast to make distinctions that matter.  Around one man in ten has some limitation to their colour vision.  It is rarer in women.

Pens
Good flipchart pens are a must.  Most trainers (including this one) prefer chisel tip to bullet tip.  When you arrive at a training room (if you’re using their pens) or before you leave for the training venue (if you use yours) test all your pens and throw away any that are no longer at their best.  Always travel with your own set, and a back up set if you expect to rely on your own.  Three excellent brands for clarity/strength of colour, range of colour and life-span (and all are chisel tip) are:

  • Berol Flipchart Markers
  • Edding 40
  • Mr Sketch scented markers

Display
Brighten up your training room by putting flip charts up on the walls at breaks.  It creates a stimulating environment, with visual reminders all around, of what participants have been learning.

So here’s the deal

If you don’t already do so, look for more opportunities to use flip charts.  Make time to practise using them well, and use good quality pens to help you do it well.

. . . and, most important, please add your own tips to the comments at the foot of this blog, to share them with others.

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