Training for the development of various crucial business skills (management, sales, marketing etc) is essential if you want to have a stable and successful business in the long run.
If you decide to leave your employees’ development to the methods of “trial-and-error” and “self-help” learning, you put at risk several things:
– Most probably your competitors often engage in training programs and since business is done by real people, your competitors’ teams would be better skilled, which is a major competitive advantage;
– You might be in the position of losing a deal which has 50/50 probability for win/lose and it is exactly the skills of the employees involved in the deal (not only the sales people) that would tip the scales in your favor;
– You might lose valuable employees because you or other company managers do not manage effectively both teams and processes, and it always comes the time when the good employees get tired of this or receive better work proposals.
I’ll give you some pieces of advice you would rarely get from training organizations – their job after all is to sell training courses…
Before you decide to include one or more of your employees in an open training program or to organize an internal company training, HONESTLY answer the following questions:
1. Does your organization provide the conditions necessary for the application of the acquired knowledge and skills?
This is THE MOST IMPORTANT question! If there are no suitable conditions, you either first provide them, or you’d better save your money…
Here are two common situations I came upon several times during my experience with business training:
– A company invests in a training on active selling, while there is neither facilities available (people, cars, software etc.), nor motivation of the sales’ team for the application of such a model (the clients call anyway and the salaries are good enough);
– A company invests in a training for the development of leadership skills of middle managers, while the CEO (often the owner himself) takes all decisions by himself or constantly interferes in the work of his subordinates at all levels.
Does this seem familiar? It’s the same as if you invest in a training for learning Chinese because you think it is popular or because China is one of the most important players in global economy, but still your employees would never use this language since they don’t need to…
2. How would you assess the learning results of people who attended the training course?
After all, that is why you sent them to a training – to learn something. If you don’t care whether they have really acquired some valuable knowledge and skills, why do you spend your money on training?
Here are some tips on how to assess the learning results:
– Ask the trainers for their assessment of each participant from your company;
– Ask the trainers to preliminary prepare a suitable test to be passed at the end of the training. Tell the trainees that they will be assessed at the end of the training – this will raise their motivation significantly;
– Ask the trainees to prepare short reports about the most important skills and knowledge they have acquired. Then MAKE SURE you demonstrate you have read the reports and ask proper questions;
– Find a way to hold regular tests, preferably in a real working environment.
3. Do you have a plan what and by when the employees should achieve with the use of the newly acquired knowledge and skills?
The least you should do is ask them prepare a reasonable action plan about how they would use the things they have learnt – what, by when and with what effect should happen. Confirm their plans or even better – discuss them in terms of the company’ situation (long-term and short-term strategy, corporate culture, resources that could be allocated etc.) and agree on what is coming next.
NB! If you do not review the achievement of objectives, the chances that people would stick to the plan are little.
4. How would you make the trainees transfer what they have learnt during the course to their everyday work so that it becomes a working habit?
Never ever let the trainees decide whether and how to use what they have learnt. If you do so, again, you have invested in vain, because people would choose for the actions with the least counteraction, while change always means difficulties.
To be sure that people would use what they have learnt:
– DEMONSTRATE that the new skills and knowledge are important for your company and you will monitor their application;
– Clearly demand the use of the new skills and knowledge – if necessary, integrate them in corporate rules and procedures, in performance assessment criteria, in salary raise/bonus change criteria etc;
– Regularly review progress.