Training for a better future

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Tony Willson has worked with hundreds of clients to deliver effective training programmes. In this article he explains how it's done. 

Time and time again, employee engagement surveys indicate that training is a major bugbear for employees, with companies often losing staff because they are failing to meet the needs and aspirations of their workforce. 

Employees who are trained on a regular basis to develop skills they can use to good effect in the workplace exhibit higher levels of job satisfaction, are more productive and more loyal. In turn, businesses who invest in training have lower levels of staff absence, higher staff retention rates and reduced recruitment costs as a result. 

Identifying training needs

In order to develop effective training plans, you need to examine each role separately. Consider what it is the business needs each role to deliver, then figure out what competencies are required for that role to ensure success. 

Also consider and define your short- and long-term business goals in order to develop training modules that will enable you to meet them. For example, do you want to increase productivity, enhance customer service or improve employee relations? If so, what competencies will be required to meet these goals? 

Once you’ve identified your needs, carry out a skills audit of your workforce to identify whether people are adequately trained to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. Being undertrained can lead to high levels of stress, as employees often worry that they are not capable of fulfilling their duties. 

Once the person is compared to the competencies, it could involve training on how to use machinery, how to perform a business process or more personal development. It could also focus on time management, conflict resolution or HR matters. It could also involve training that is necessary for compliance with current legislation and working practices.  

When carrying out your audit, it is important that you speak to your staff to ascertain which areas they feel they are lacking in and make it clear that their jobs are not under threat if there is a shortfall. You should convey to them that the onus is squarely on your shoulders as their employer and inform them that you are revising your staff training provision to ensure that you are meeting the needs of the workforce and of the business.

Consider your options – all of them

From those actions, you will have identified upon which areas your training needs to focus. At this point, you may well think you have training needs that outweigh the budget that is available to you. Don’t fall into this trap. Consider your options and, if you don’t have an in-house resource for organising everything, speak to people who specialise in outsourcing training as this can be an alternative to bringing it in-house. It isn’t necessary to outsource all of your training as a reputable provider will be happy to manage individual elements for you in order to arrive at the most effective solution. 

Outsource providers can achieve further cost efficiencies for you because they buy training in bulk. This means they are able to negotiate better rates with providers and venues. They will also manage the administrative side of your training, which can be resource heavy, and provide you with regular progress and evaluation reports. This is essential as without accurate reporting it will be impossible to assess the effectiveness of a training programme. 

An outsource provider will act as a business partner; they will discuss areas such as the best times to train - e.g. times when business is traditionally slower or even out of hours -, logistics to gain the best attendance and how to ‘market’ a course. As an alternative, some will also be able to offer you access to a range of appropriate online training courses that enable your employees to work at times that suit them.  

In a similar vein, an outsource provider will help you to prioritise training as there are bound to be certain skills that are required more urgently than others. 

Assessing the benefits of effective training

After training it is important to evaluate its effectiveness and all training providers will have their own ‘happy sheet’. From the comments and opinions about the training, good providers will take note and improve any particular module. However, also consider sending out, to the manager of each person, a follow-up form after a month or two so that they have to show how the training has benefited the person and the business.

By creating carefully planned and properly implemented training plans, everyone knows what is expected of them and staff feel they are being invested in and supported. It also helps to reduce workplace stress because employees who are adequately skilled to do their jobs are less likely to underperform. This boosts staff morale and can lead to a more entrepreneurial environment where learning and exploration is seen as a focal point of the business. 

Training should be viewed as a means to a specific end, so keeping goals in mind during the development and implementation stages of your training programme will assist in creating a clearly defined and effective programme. Just be sure to monitor the programme’s delivery on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the business and its employees and ensure that it becomes an intrinsic part of each employee’s professional development, from the moment they are recruited. 

Tony Willson is managing director at outsource learning and development management company, Helmsman Services. For further information about outsource training visit http://helmsmanservices.co.uk  

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