Capability Insights Consulting

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Getting the Most Bang for Training Bucks

Posted on June 24, 2010 at 11:44 AM

When organizations spend real dollars on training events they deserve to get as much from them as possible.

 

In too many cases, everyone in the organization, from staff to leaders, assumes that the training event will impart great skills and that the training participants will go back to their desk and start applying those skills to the betterment of the organization.

 

Sounds great doesn’t it? Oh, were it so! I love the statement from John Maxwell, “The best teacher is an evaluated experience.” The reality is that the training event is necessary but insufficient to achieve changes in skills, behaviours and business effectiveness. What then is necessary?

 

Moving from training to learning to real improvement

There must be some discussion and evaluation of the new concepts/ideas/practices/tools and specifically how they will fit into your organizational environment. Simply put this is about figuring out what exactly will change as a result of the training. For example:

  • Will there be a new best practice implemented?
  • Will there be new deliverables as output of the business process related to the training?
  • How and when will the new tool or template be used?
  • What are the scenarios or situations where new skills will be applied and what exactly does it look like to apply those new skills?

If the training is for one person this may be a matter of some time in 1-1 discussions to help them put new skills or practices to use. When the training involves a whole group the stakes are higher. Significant dollars have been invested and the investment needs to pay off.

 

Below is a case study of a group that followed an easy but structured approach to move from training to real improvement. There were many side benefits for this group as well: stronger sense of team, improving their ability to collaborate, commitment to their personal development, sense that the organization was really supporting them and helping them grow.

 

Case Study

The situation

This group of business/systems analysts felt they needed to grow their skills and abilities in gathering and analyzing business and systems requirements as the core the services analysts provide. They made the business case to bring a 3 day training program in-house as the per person cost was significantly reduced both for the training and because they avoided travel costs. They would also be able to have discussions with the instructor that would be fully tailored to their environment. The training was planned well in advance and all projects were aware of the 3 days that people would be “off the job”. It was also planned for a time of year that was off peak demand time.

 

In this case the group as a whole was allocated a certain percent of their overall work time as non-billable hours for things like professional development, group meetings, best practice work etc. This training used some but certainly not all of that allocated non-billable time.

 

Then what

Once the training days were completed the group agreed to have a few more frequent team meetings for the following couple of months. Each of those meetings was designed to go through the training module by module to determine what it would mean to them in their roles and what changes they wanted to make as a group.

 

Six one-hour meetings were held. All the time spent fit in the allocated non-billable time budget. There was active discussion and debate on potential new activities, templates and best practices. Decisions were made at the end of each meeting and people assigned to take any action required to get new activities or template into their intranet site.

 

The results

The group added a few new templates to their toolkit with a clear picture of the situational need for each (when to apply). They related the training to some of their existing templates and deliverables and in a few cases made some modifications to those. They improved their part of the organization’s software development methodology to include some new activities and reference new or improved templates.

 

The end result was more consistent approaches and results for the work they were doing on their projects. Within 6-9 months of that training there was a marked increase in the credibility of the group and the demand for their skills on projects.

 

Sustaining the change

The training course that initiated the work was made a standard part of training for new analysts for the next couple of years. The manager of the group would then meet with the analyst after the training and show how the training was adopted into the organization.

 

Lessons from the case study

It comes back to the earlier quote, “The best teacher is evaluated experience.” Find a way to help the person or people involved in a training event to make it a learning process. Plan to do it within the organizational constraints you face. If the training is worth paying for it is worth allocating existing 1-1 or team meeting time to evaluate and discuss. Consider lunch sessions. Most people will give some of their own time when they see a real commitment from the organization to their professional development.

 

Professional development is not about what the organization will do for me as an individual. Your people must be part of the planning and must commit to spending the time and energy. Otherwise don’t bother. They’ll attend the training as a nice break from day-to-day work and nothing will change after. There is and must be mutual responsibility.

 

I certainly prefer a situation where I can plan this holistic approach as part of the business case for the training in the first place. But, sometimes you need to beg forgiveness vs. ask permission. The old Nike poster, “Just Do IT” held a prominent place on my wall for a long time! Just be very committed as a group to show real improvement from your approach.

 

I can tell you from my involvement with the case study above and many others that once you have shown the organizations and budget-holders what you are capable of doing as a group, getting ongoing dollars and time every year gets easier. To the point where you, as a leader, may have to take some barbs from your peers who are also fighting for dollars and time without the same success. That’s a problem I can live with!

Categories: leadership

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