Training programmes across various levels is the norm in every organisation. Managements always worry whether their employees take them seriously or just view them as good fun away from the work desk. Measuring effectiveness of such programmes is always subjective and you do not know whether such programmes can cause change and if they do, will such change last. Employees definitely like employers who invest in training programmes but almost everyone has an opinion on what constitutes a 'good' training programme.
From our experience of working with organizations, we list below some pointers which may be of use to make training programmes more effective.
1. Assess training needs during appraisals: Appraisals are a great time to be asking each employee individually on areas that they would like to work on and programmes that will benefit them. Incorporating such specific needs while devising the training calendar makes the calendar much more relevant. For example, fund managers in an investment management firm, have some specific certification programmes that are helpful to them as well as the organisation.
We know of a large industrial conglomerate that works out a development action plan (DAP) based on appraisal plus a 360 degree feedback report, where available. The aggregate of the DAPs then make up the annual training plan thus making the whole process scientific.
2. Maintaining a balance between functional skills training and soft skills training: While it is nice to have team bonding and collaboration training programmes, too much of these can end up conveying a lack of seriousness to employees. Sometimes taking the team out for dinner may achieve the objective of bonding in a much better fashion. An ideal annual training calendar should have a good balance of functional skills and soft skills. Most well run companies, we found, gave priority to functional skills training programmes.
3. Your stars might need coaching, not training : Your best employees who have to be retained may need help in specific areas to be able to take on larger roles going ahead - in strategising, execution skills, management of large teams, etc. These needs are better served by employing executive coaches who work one-on-one with a few selected persons in an organisation to help them build skills needed for their onward career progression.
4. Think of training also as a reward tool: In emerging markets like India, there is still a fascination attached to an overseas degree or certification. Besides, these help the chosen executives to build cross country networks and cultural skills. In addition to the normal cash incentives/ bonuses at the end of the year, we have seen that good organisations have built their reward schemes around prestigious overseas training programmes. Besides training, these are great motivation tools as the experience stays with the employee for the rest of her life.
5. Refrain from severe cut back on training during lean times: We have seen that during the last three to four years of flat sales growth, many organizations have cut back on training programmes. This gives a clear signal to the employees that training is viewed as a luxury (nice to have in good times) and not as an investment. A barren training calendar is definitely avoidable and if an organization has really fallen on tough times which necessitates deferring training programmes, then it is important that the same is communicated to employees.
6. Seek serious feedback post the programme and re-evaluate at regular intervals: This is the one of the most important steps where even well known organizations falter. We have all attended excellent training programmes and returned 'enlightened' to our work desks only to find a few days later that we have forgotten all that we learnt ! Obtaining feedback is an active process and not just the customary filling of forms. It is important to let your employees know that you are taking their feedback very seriously. Thereafter, a check in with employees at regular intervals (even informal feedback sessions are fine) to assess impact is often helpful. If possible, follow on programmes with linkages to the earlier one should be offered.
7. Clearly defined objective of the programmes: Is it an offsite to brainstorm on strategy and goal setting for the year ahead? Is it all work and little fun or lots of fun and little work? How will a training session find place there? It is important to not try and achieve too many objectives at one go.
8. Pedigree of the trainer: A little background check on the trainer and feedback from other organisations is always helpful before choosing a trainer. It is important to realise that the good ones do not come cheap. Moreover, they are happy to suggest metrics that can measure the effectiveness of their training sessions.
9. Lastly, less is clearly more : Two to three good quality programmes, covering five to seven days in a year, are likely to have better recall and absorption than a host of programmes during the year.
Significant amounts are spent in training programmes every year. Strengthening the training process is important both from an employer and employee perspective as most organizations would like to see a ROI (return on investments) on their training spends.
The author is co-founder and CEO of Mumbai-based Consumerge Wealth Managers which specialises in wealth management, HR consultancy and coaching. He has spent over 25 years in senior management and leadership roles.