Organisations generally appreciate the concept of training. It is a means to impart new and relevant skills for improved work performance. However, enrolling staff on formalized external training is a consideration that may be pushed aside by some businesses. The mention of such training could spark controversy in a number of circles, with some not attaching much importance to it. Training is defined as an organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or instructions to improve the recipient’s performance or to help him or her attain a required level of knowledge or skill (www.businessdictionary.com). It is expected to yield the desirable outcome of improved performance but we are aware it is mostly not achieved. This article will highlight some of the means through which businesses would gain the benefits of investments in training, so the activity is not regarded as a mere money draining venture. Beyond a few days orientation undertaken for new recruits, some institutions are unwilling to invest further time and resources into training of management and staff, but yet continue to expect improved performance year upon year. Organisations should look at training from a new perspective and provide training under appropriate conditions to make them beneficial.
Get Employees to Unlearn Undesirable habits
An excerpt from one of the Jesus’ teachings says “…you cannot put new wine into old wineskins”. An old adage also states that you cannot put new content into an already full bottle. The first step to reaping the benefits of training is to get your training participants to unlearn undesirable habits. Enrolling employees on external training has become unattractive to some businesses because of unpleasant experience of having invested in the past but staff couldn’t lift up the game. Remember the desirable outcome of training is improved performance. The truth is employees come on board with their ‘bottles’ filled with behavior patterns shaped by personal and work experiences. These are filled with what they’ve been taught to say to customers, whether right or wrong, and services they have received from others, whether polite or rude. There is no room to top up a full bottle with further training, as it will only tip over and amount to nothing. They rather have to be emptied before new skills and knowledge can be taken well on board.
Training should identify loose ends which ought to be trimmed off completely. Let trainees appreciate the relevance of the proposed change. Get employees to unlearn and off load practices that are undesirable and gradually replace them with new perspectives towards the desirables. An employee with a line of thinking that customers hate being greeted should be gradually exposed to friendly ways of greeting customers to appreciate the practice. Training that merely dumps information down the throat of participants would certainly yield poor results. The trainer should therefore have the skill to create awareness in learners of undesirable traits and then begin to strip them down before ‘filling the cup with new wine’. This is when training can lead to desired behaviourial patterns.
Train on skills that are unknowingly lacking
According to a Harvard Business Review research, people are “unconsciously incompetent” in a typical 20% to 40% of areas that are core to their work functions. In the same research, sales employees of a technology company didn’t understand or know about 22% of features of their products, even though they believed they did. The issue of unconscious incompetence spans across all functions and levels in an organisation. It could be detrimental in situations where managers pass on incorrect information or skills through learning.
An example can be cited with the upsurge of microfinance institutions (MFIs) which created a high demand for credit administrators. Chunks of enthusiastic young officers were recruited by various MFIs. However, they might not have been fully equipped for such roles, and training, if provided at all, far from corrected their weaknesses. The situation led to flawed loan appraisal processes and a decline in loan portfolio quality. This played a major role in the eventual collapse of a number of MFIs.
Workplace training should engage learners and allow them to admit their flaws. Training that is beneficial goes beyond the “one-size-fits-all” approach. It uses learning models that are adaptive and molded to suit individual learner’s needs. This is required for learners of all levels of the organisation and whether they are of formal or informal background. .
Train on Relevant Functions
How efficiently are you in utilizing the training budget allocated over a given period? Are you investing in training that will upgrade the skills and work performance of learners? Train in relevant functions to reap a higher benefit from external training. As a former employee, I sometimes went on courses which were unrelated and inapplicable to my core function. Considering the line of activities of the institution, I underwent training in areas which were most unlikely that I would ever be exposed to in my work. On some of the courses, I barely acquired improved knowledge for my work function to benefit the institution. This is when training becomes more of a drain on the company’s resources. Some readers would identify with me on the syndrome of inefficient utilization of training budget which eventually becomes a lost investment to the institution. HR and Training Managers should desist from assigning courses to participants based on familiarity and or seniority, instead of work function and relevance. For instance, avoid enrolling friends on a credit management course just to pacify them, when the institution has budding credit experts whose roles could benefit from the program.
Secondly train on relevant functions because the human brain is not a warehouse to store knowledge until it is required. Employees can hardly apply skills that are not put to use regularly.
Catalogue training feedback for Process/ Product Review purposes
Learners should be encouraged to submit feedback on all training programs. Such feedback should highlight learning points, knowledge acquired, and areas in which acquired knowledge could be applied. This should be a short and concise report and should be catalogued for future products/ process review purposes. As a rule most organisations expect written report from learners after training. However, the process has turned out to be more of a robotic task rather than an avenue to harness knowledge and ideas for future reviews.
Taking feedback from learners and implementing suggestions where necessary is a workplace motivational tool for employees to attach importance to training activities, with the knowledge that relevant learning points will be taken on board.
Author: Amma Adjeiwaa Antwi, M-DoZ Consulting
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M-DoZ Consulting offers Organisational Development, Corporate Training and Financial Planning Services.
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