BEST PRACTICES: Maximize training

Making a strong case for training during fiscally frugal times is a challenge; finding the budget and time can be even harder.

By Mark Jolley and Rinnette Lowder, Marshall Institute December 15, 2010

Making a strong case for training during fiscally frugal times is a challenge; finding the budget and time can be even harder. With downsizing common and turnover regular, many managers and supervisors are faced with filling roles, skill gaps or training needs. In a time when every dollar matters, you must ensure maximum return on investment. You have the responsibility to provide direction and develop your people.

Follow these five steps to ensure your employees get the right training and, in turn, the best results:

  1. Align with organizational goals and strategy
  2. Scope needs and define objectives
  3. Establish training format and select provider
  4. Ensure Supervisors attend training
  5. Meet before training and follow up afterwards

Align with organizational goals and strategy

At the end of the day everything has to align with the organization’s value and direction. If you present your business case to leadership in terms of company goals and training benefits then gaining the needed funding for training should not be an issue. Take a strategic look at the training need in terms of job enlargement or job enrichment. Is it a horizontal expansion of the employee’s current job in which additional duties and responsibilities are being added? If so, job enlargement is the focus. Or, are you giving the employee more control and managerial access to perform his/her duties and responsibilities, warranting a vertical expansion through job enrichment.

Critical to planning is a strategic look at your training approach. ‘Cross-Training’ is a way to train employees in different areas of the plant. You train one employee to do another’s work. Some benefits include bonding between different areas, improved understanding of the different departments, better coordination and teamwork, and sharing of organizational goals.

Another successful and proactive training approach is “succession planning.” This is where you use people in current jobs to train successors. If done properly this utilizes the skills of experienced and capable employees, lowers the learning curve, and allows for smooth transition from one employee to the next.

Scope needs and define objectives

Determine where the employee is currently, where he/she needs to be, and how you plan to fill the gap. You can start by reviewing his/her standard job profile. Individuals who have a vested interest in the outcome of the training need to be involved. For instance, if a supervisor notices a training need for a member of their team, he/she should be involved in planning.

Create a competency matrix that outlines the employee’s job/position, and evaluates his/her current competencies and proficiency against the desired competencies and level of proficiency. You are mapping the competencies of the employee against the desired competency matrix for that job, and identifying any gaps. Involve the employee in this process. It is ideal to do this for every employee in your area of responsibility. Next, determine the depth of training required for each competency. At this point you are now able to articulate the learning objectives for your trainee.

Establish training format and select provider

Finding the appropriate training format depends on your budget and the benefits provided by the format. Select a training provider by looking at credibility, proven results and alignment with the learning objectives you identified in step 2. Determine what the training includes; i.e. follow up training, reference manuals, books, CD’s etc. There are many training formats/options available today, such as public seminars, on-site training, on-the-job training, self study, webinars, CD ROMs, online courses, etc.

Now you must match the benefits of each format with your training needs. Public seminars are great for depth and detail, networking, and focusing on the subject matter. On-site training provides cost-effective group training, hands-on work on your own equipment and system, and great internal team building.

Webinars are effective for introductory awareness and refresher training. They are also cost-effective and make group training possible. If you have many employees at various locations and there are budgetary considerations, use e-learning, such as distance learning, computer-based training, Web-based training, or CD ROMs.

Ensure Supervisors attend training

It is beneficial to train the managers and supervisors of the affected areas so that everyone is aligned to execute the deliverables. This ensures a consistent message is delivered to key personnel to gain buy-in and support.

Meet before training and follow up afterwards

Supervisors should meet with employees prior to attending training to review learning objectives and expectations. So often employees attend training only to say, “I was asked to come to this training but I really don’t know why I’m here.” Likewise, after the training is completed Supervisors should again meet with the attendees to ensure lessons and deliverables are implemented. Ask, “How will you apply what you’ve learned?” Follow up again in the annual performance review.

Initial training investment must comply with your current budget. However, try to look at the big picture and ask yourself, “What do I get in return?” Following this process will ensure maximum return on your investment, and you should view it as such – an investment – not a cost. Validate the monetary value and time spent on the training by implementing quality results within your department, and possibly throughout the organization.

– Marshall Institute is an asset maintenance management consulting and training company providing sustainable reliability solutions and bottom line results to companies in all industries. Mark Jolley can be reached at mjolley(at)

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