Organisations generally appreciate the concept of training. It is a means to impart new and relevant skills for improvement in work performance.
After setting aside huge budgets ( for some institutions) to invest in employee training one concern remains; are organisations reaping the benefits of investments in employee training?
Investment in employee training is unattractive in some organisations because of unpleasant experience of having invested in the past but staff couldn’t lift up the game. Such business leaders consider employee training as a drain on resources and the concept may spark controversy in some business circles when mentioned.
What is Employee Training
Training is defined as an organized activity that imparts 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). The desirable outcome of training is improvement in performance, but oftentimes this is not achieved.
This article will highlight some of the means through which businesses can enjoy the benefits of investments in training. The fact is the positive aspect of developing potential of employees through training far outweighs the cost implications of such exercises, and organisations must know and adopt the correct methods to train.
When training, 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 one cannot put new content into an already full bottle. The first step to reaping the benefits of training is to get training participants to unlearn undesirable habits.
Eventually the desirable outcome of training is to achieve an improvement in overall performance. However, employees come on board with behavior patterns shaped by personal and work experiences. Such behaviours relate for instance to how they relate to others, whether in a correct or wrong manner, and how to conduct themselves at work, whether in a polite or rude manner.
In such situations, it becomes impossible to introduce desirable behaviours with training. There is no room to top up a full bottle with further training, as it will only tip over and amount to nothing. To reap the benefits of investments in employee training, employees must offload their bottles of already formed behaviours and take on board the new skills and knowledge.
Use training to offload undesirable behavoiurs and introduce behaviours that support your work culture. First identify loose ends and trim them off. Let trainees appreciate the relevance of the proposed change. Also, get employees to unlearn and off load practices that are undesirable and gradually replace them with new perspectives towards the desirables.
For instance, gradually expose friendly ways of greeting to an employee with a line of thinking that customers hate greeting. Do not dump information down the throat of participants when training as that 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 leads to desired behaviourial patterns.
Train on skills that are unknowingly lacking to make Training beneficial
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 is detrimental in situations where managers pass on incorrect information or skills through learning.
A local example can be cited with the surge of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the last couple of years. It created a high demand for credit officers. 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.
To reap the benefits of investments in employee training, workplace training must engage learners and enable them to identify their flaws. A “one-size-fits-all” approach to training will not be beneficial to participants . Effective training adopts flexible learning models suitable to individual learner’s needs and is applicable at all levels within an organisation.
Train on Relevant Functions to benefit from employee training
Train in relevant functions to reap a higher benefit from employee training and invest in training that will upgrade skills and work performance of learners. This is when an organiation can now boast of efficient utilisation of training budget.
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 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. Avoid enrolling friends on a credit management course just to pacify them when the institution has budding credit experts who 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
Encourage learners to submit feedback on all training programs. The feedback must highlight learning points, knowledge acquired and areas in which knowledge can be applied. The report must be short and concise, and must 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
Amma is a management consultant with M-DoZ Consulting based in Ghana. She has several years of industry and consulting experience. She’s served companies in various industries in the area of strategic planning, policy analysis and industry research. Contact her on 0201196080 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org