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Training’s Tension

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For any business to succeed, employees must remain current on industry trends, new products, customer wants and needs, technological advances, internal policy changes, etc. In fact, nearly every employer or business executive will claim that their employees are their biggest asset. And yet, training is often one of the first things cut from budgets and one of the last things added to budgets to accommodate or anticipate changes in objectives or expectations of employees.

Reasons

The reasons are easy to understand (even as counter-intuitive or contradictory to their stated beliefs it may seem):

  1. Training is seen as a cost that does not have an easy to track ROI.  To train employees often means removing them from their jobs (often, jobs that generate revenue – so it is a double hit to the botomline in the short-run.  They are not only not producing revenue, but they are now an additional expense by being “non-productive” while in training).  Further, it is hard to ascertain how much value there is in training and when the results will be seen.  This is exacerbated by certain trainings that may be more “long-term” in value (leadership training, team-building skills, listening, etc.).
  2. There may not be a person in-house who is dedicated to training, so the employer has the choice of taking someone from their everyday role and assigning them responsibility for the training (and thereby reducing their revenue generating ability during the time they are developing or delivering the training).
  3. The assigned trainer may not be skilled in the methods of training, and so the training is less than optimally effective as an intervention.
  4. Bringing in an outsider or expert to conduct the training carries an immediate expense that is traceable (fees, materials, etc.), PLUS there is often time and expense incurred for internal Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to orient the outsider to the needs of the organization, unique cultural idiosyncracies, etc.
Boring training will result in poor job performance and results.

So What Should Be Done?

While at first blush it may seem like a fiscally sound strategy to not incur the expense of training, it is one of the fastest ways to ensure failure.  Training is of paramount importance for any number of reasons:
  1. Onboarding or orientation
  2. Remediation
  3. Preparation for changes in business (regulatory, technological, product/service, other)
  4. Career succession or promotion eligibility

By not offering training, the company will lose any advantage it may have had and employees will quickly grow frustrated at their stilted career growth opportunities.  In addition to being a business necessity, training is often seen by employees as a “perk” that helps them maintain motivation, confirms that the employer is interested in their professional evolution, and a signal that they are valued by the organization.  In short, it is often interpreted as a reward and not as a signal that someone is underperforming and needs to be “re-programmed.”

Options

When thinking about training options, the default view that many have is to think of their school experiences and envision a classroom setting with people collected around tables or in rows of chairs.  This often means expenses to get people to travel to the site, cater it, potentially house people in hotels, and if a room is not available at the business location; it may mean renting a room (and any A/V equipment needed). 

However, there very real ways to manage expenses and still conduct easy to develop training that is less taxing on the internal staff and does not require expertise in training design and development (though, it is often helpful to have it!).  Two such approaches are cloud-based, remote delivery platforms (translation: learners can access the training through their computers from their desks, homes, and even mobile phones).  One is www.brainshark.com and the other is www.moodle.org.  These two programs allow for inclusion of video, audio, computer screen animations, links to websites, tests, etc.  While they are relatively simple to use, they are also quite powerful and comprehensive.  And, the best news is that they are offered in differing packages that range from free to small monthly fees ($20 or slightly more depending on the features desired).

Training can now be done when the learner is able to access it and not exclusively at a preordained time so that learner scheduling conflicts can be accommodated.  The training is available and does not require a trainer to have to be “on-call” to deliver it.  Training content is consistent across all trainees, so that there is no fear that some classes got to hear some of the information, but others did not.  By using these platforms, a company’s training costs can be reduced significantly, and the expertise required can be minimized. 

David Zahn

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