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Why delivery is just one half of the workplace training equation

With policy, purpose and program in place, organisational leaders and trainers may believe they have mastered their workplace training implementation. However, there is one final step in the training lifecycle to ensure employee development keeps pace with business needs.

In previous articles, I outlined the role of organisational training in adapting to rapid marketplace change – such as that experienced because of the pandemic – as well as the methodology for its effective implementation.

However, just like product mix, marketing and culture, workplace training cannot deliver optimal returns with a ‘set and forget’ approach.

Ensuring training remains fit for purpose is only possible through the prism of a structured process of reviews and revision.

Conducting reviews

Reviewing existing training performance should examine two core aspects:

  • that pre-determined outcomes are being achieved to acceptable standards; and
  • the program delivers across all professional, interpersonal and technical skills required of the participants to be able to effectively undertake their duties.

If either of these are not satisfied, then the existing training program is not fit for purpose and will require modifications (or worst case, a complete overhaul).

Such re-evaluations should be undertaken whenever a skill or knowledge gap in your workforce is identified and/or:

  • when new equipment is installed
  • when regulatory bodies alter compliance requirements.

As a rule (in the absence of major operational structure changes), performance reviews should be conducted every six months to analyse developmental outcomes and generate feedback on operational requirements.

Revisit the policy

As a rule, training policies should be reviewed every one to three years, though most experts recommend annually.

Circumstances which may change and necessitate a review of training policies include:

  • technological advancements (introduction of new equipment, systems or processes)
  • key personnel
  • management structure, and
  • operational parameters.

In most companies, the HR manager is responsible for reviewing and updating the training policy. Where there is no human resources department, this responsibility typically falls to senior managers.

Upper management must be made aware of, and explicitly authorise, any policy and procedural changes to policies, and know who is responsible for their implementation and subsequent review.

Turning around poor outcomes

Each training program can be evaluated by way of:

  • employee reaction and satisfaction (both during and post training)
  • employee knowledge retention
  • employee application and implementation of new skills/knowledge
  • self-assessment questionnaires
  • informal feedback from peers and managers
  • focus groups
  • on-the-job observations, and
  • comparing actual job performance against KPIs.

The failure of one or more employees to demonstrate improved results in these areas should prompt a review of the program content to evaluate its effectiveness related to those individuals’ work tasks.

Additionally, the success (or failure) of any training program has much to do with its delivery. This should be reviewed by analysing the:

  • audibility of the trainer/supervisor by all participants
  • trainer/supervisor’s understanding of the topic presented
  • pace of delivery (too slow risks participant boredom; too fast risks lack of clarity over key elements)
  • suitability of any verbal or visual aids used
  • referencing of the relevant manual or guide
  • opportunities for participants to ask questions, and
  • balance of different skills levels and job roles of each employee.

Real-world leaders

Consider the following global examples of global organisations renowned for the effectiveness of their training programs:

  • Amazon prepays 95 per cent of new employee tuition at fulfillment centres to take courses in "in-demand fields", as determined by current and projected operational requirements.
  • AT&T partnered with Udacity to launch self-paced, fast-track technical credentials called Nano degrees across web, mobile development, data analytics and tech entrepreneurship.
  • Schneider Electric offers Energy University, a free online educational resource with more than 200 courses on energy efficiency and data centre topics.
  • Adobe delivers a variety of educational resources through its “Accelerate Adobe Life” programs for all new employees, college graduates or individuals entering the workforce.

Ingredients for success

Ultimately, any workplace training program is only as good as the sum of its components. Keeping the content up-to-date with real-world needs, as well as delivery methods that reflect the individual needs of participants, is key to ensuring investment in training delivers positive outcomes for all involved.

Sir Gerard Newcombe is executive director at Group Colleges Australia/UBSS and author of Marketing: The Simple Technique and Surviving Asia. He was knighted by the Order of the Knights of Rizal in The Philippines in 2016 for his work in fostering relations between The Philippines and Australia.

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