Basic intent of any training is to develop skills required by an employee to discharge his or her duties effectively and in the process aid the individual’s growth. Trainings have many flavors like technical, functional, behavioral, soft skills and so on which intends to develop skills as required for the job. Organizations spend huge amounts of money and time to impart these trainings in a hope to create highly skilled and effective employees who can deliver the expected results smoothly. Most of the organizations would have a dedicated training department and a dedicated training budget as well. Trainings do help specially the technical and functional trainings where employees can learn a new skill in a very short period of time and start applying it in the jobs they need to carry out. Though there are some concerns around the way technical trainings are usually done, my bigger concern is around the soft skills trainings and their effectiveness.
Another issue arises when organizations starts to consider that anyone can be trained to do anything. This should be understood very seriously as not all the employees in the organization have same level of aptitude, orientation, interest or learning capabilities. Assuming that just providing a few days training will prepare the employees to work in different areas is preparing the employees and projects for failure. It is true that some of the employees will learn and perform as well but not all of them. The later could be considered as non-performers as well for not being able to adopt to the change or for not being able to learn.
There are quite a few things training department, managers or the organizations can do to make the training and development activities more effective:
· First and foremost define the training objective and expected outcome you are looking forward to after completion of this training effort. This should always be in line with organizational direction, future needs, business requirements or changing technology landscape. Avoid taking training decisions in a hurry as wrong or unaligned trainings would result in huge wastage of time and money. More than that it negatively impacts the employees who put in their efforts to learn something which may not be put to the work.
· Spend time to analyze the individuals who are supposed to be trained in a particular area, understand their aspirations and career development plans along with the project requirements or organizational opportunities. Not all of them can be fit into the same bracket and training needs to could be very different for different individuals. Some may need more practical time, some may need more coaching, some may have a need to understand theoretical concepts and some others may require on the job exposure as well. Planning for a training should include current skill levels, experience and an understanding of individual aptitude.
· Training should always be accompanied with the word Development, which translates the entire effort into a continuous process. End of the day you would want each of your employees getting trained to reach a certain level of expertise, in a given period of time and have developed the ability or skills to effectively deliver the project work items. So a combination of classroom training, practical implementation of learned skills, on the job execution of skills, monitoring of progress, follow up classes and extended mentoring is required to make the training efforts highly effective. One approach could be to have your more experienced resources serve as mentors for the other members in the team for a certain period of time. This will ensure less experienced ones learn quickly and resolve their queries in a shortest possible time and more experienced ones become much more skilled by mentoring others. Mentoring is the best way of learning.
· Do not try and push as many people as possible in your team to attend trainings just because you have some seats available for the training session. This would mostly result in wastage of time for people who do not actually need the training. Ascertain who all are actually required and go with that, others who attend the trainings will not be applying those concepts in their jobs. Other difficult thing to handle would be the fact that a lot of people would show interest in some trainings without a development pipeline, need or any immediate requirement. Managers need to work with these people and set up the right expectations with them.
· Even harder is the assessment of soft skill trainings both in terms of who all need it and what is the possible impact of these trainings vis-a-vis employee development. Organizations would like to have certain traits in almost all the employees like decision making, constructive confrontation and communication skills. More resources are wasted with soft skill trainings if not planned properly. Here again like the technical training proper assessment should be done in terms of role requirements and not everyone should be targeted for the same set of trainings. Again trying to make everyone equal with even the soft skills like communication or decision making would not actually help. Also need to make sure soft skill trainings are also not just understanding of classroom concepts, these should be practically applied. For example if you provide decision making training to you employees but do not provide them with any decision making opportunities, training would only result in sheer wastage of time and money.
· One other set of trainings fall under the category of mandatory trainings which are required by all the employees and rightly so as these defines the very fundamentals of an organization. These include trainings like ethics and compliance, diversity, trade secrets, security and safety which almost all the organizations have. Key point to understand here is that these are closely tied to the culture of an organization. For example diversity has to be a cultural element of an organization, if not just providing diversity related training will not help. Therefore managers and management has to internalize these concepts and make them part of the organization culture.
· Most futile of all is the management trainings normally aimed at managers. There are large number of trainings done for improving the managerial skills including performance management, employee motivation, recognition, career development and many more. Biggest issue here is that there exists a big gap between what is being taught in these trainings and what is being practiced on the ground. For example managers are being provided career development training where they are taught to consider employee aspirations, interest and aptitude to guide them in the right direction to build their careers. But as we often see a sudden organization change would place all these very good concepts down in the priority list and employees are just moved into different teams without being asked for any choice or having a look at their career development plans. Same could be the case with performance management trainings as well, where despite all good concepts learned a manager may need to rank and rate the employees to find the bottom players.
Overall effectiveness and benefits of the training programs can only be realized when there is a clarity around the organization culture and direction, expected outcome, specific needs and fair assessment of employee aspirations is taken into account. Yes organizations go through changes and employees should also be committed to support organization during the changes or the tough times but taking any action without employee consideration would deplete the value of that action.