Jennifer Wyatt Sargent of Wyatt Sargent & Associates Ltd advises on how organisations can make the most of employee training.
This is the time of year when many organisations undertake their strategic planning, and one of the areas that often comes under the microscope is training.
Unfortunately not all organisations have had positive outcomes with training and consequently tend to regard it as an expensive exercise in terms of cost and time. However, I know from my experience of over 20 years as a Human Resources Consultant that training plays a critical role in employee morale and in productivity. As businesses evolve, employers need new strategies to engage employees, develop capacity and ensure that individuals are productive.
- Given that training can be expensive, it pays to develop a robust training policy. Many employers will see the advantages in fostering a culture that encourages employees to broaden their thinking, update their knowledge and increase their skills. So the first step is to ensure that training needs are based on the organisation’s business objectives, the required competencies for the employee’s position in the organisation, the desired performance level, and any gap between this and the employee’s current performance level.
- The next consideration is how training will be delivered: on-the-job training (particularly useful for people who have not set foot in a classroom since they left school or college); seminars; conferences; interactive workshops where group discussions facilitate the sharing of ideas; formal training programmes; further academic study; online training such as live webinars with real time interaction with the presenter; online training modules where the employees dip in and out when they have the time and inclination. Whichever method is chosen, it should be augmented with coaching and mentoring. In general terms, face-to-face training is a more comfortable experience for attendees. Participants who are dissatisfied must disrupt their peers if they decide to opt out by leaving or by checking email. Peer pressure keeps them in the room and gives the facilitator the opportunity to re‐engage them. On the other hand, virtual training participants may have numerous distractions, most of which the facilitator cannot see, imagine or anticipate. The majority of participants are distracted with checking email, phones, eating lunch or clearing their desk. There is less peer pressure to stay engaged, so once a participant has opted out it is nearly impossible to re-engage them.
- If providing in-house training, work with the trainer as a partner and ensure they understand the required outcomes, KPIs and knowledge, attitude, skills and habits the organisation wants targeted.
- Ensure employees understand why they are being sent on a training course, for example that it will assist with the challenges of their work and help create solutions. Recognise that training that delivers learning with ideas for its integration and application will have a greater impact on the organisation.
- Assess business results prior to commencing training.
- When an employee has completed a course or some other form of training, gauge their initial reaction to the training, ensure they understand the why as well as the how, and have them set goals for using the knowledge acquired, for example passing on that knowledge to colleagues.
- Follow up and coach the behaviours the organisation is expecting to see change. Understand that new skills take time to master and develop.
- Measure and compare the business results.
The employer will be expected to pay the fees of any course the employee is required to attend in order to extend their knowledge in a particular area. Similarly, the employer will pay the fees for courses, seminars or conferences that the employer has approved because they will benefit the organisation. However, given the cost of some learning experiences, the employer can require the employee to repay the cost of the training on a pro rata basis if the employee terminates their employment within, say, 12 months of completing the training. The supporting paperwork must be completed and placed on the employee’s file.
For more Human Resources advice please contact Jennifer Wyatt Sargent at Wyatt Sargent & Associates Ltd.