We've all done it. The glossy brochure with catchy headlines promoting training courses which seem too good to miss. We either see them ourselves or employees bring them to us with a previously unknown "need" to have this training. Before we know it a large chunk of the annual training budget has gone on courses we didn't even know existed.
This sort of reactive approach to training and development costs far more than systematic training and is usually far less effective.
So, how do we do this systematically? If we cover the key elements of an integrated approach to managing people, the pieces will fall into place.
The starting point should be the corporate plan - where is the organization going? If we know this we should also know what the obstacles are and what we are going to require of people.
In previous articles we have discussed what people have to deliver (documented on job descriptions) and how they are to do it (competencies and associated behaviours). Once these have been determined, it should be easier to see what, if any training or development needs there are.
Gun at the head test
Here is a simple test to see if training is required. If the employee could do what is required if a gun was held at their head (please don't use a real gun!), they don't need training. They need better management. If they couldn't do the tasks, then training may be an answer.
Following on from the planning stage there are other parts of the system that will provide useful information on training and development needs.
What are we having to recruit for? If we are paying a premium for certain skills, can we develop these internally? If we can't find certain abilities, do we need to start growing these ourselves?
What are the gaps in current performance? Are these caused by a lack of training? What are the aspirations of staff and do they fit in with our corporate goals? Can we meet these with internal development plans?
Are people earning to their potential through the salary system or incentive plans? If not, does this indicate a training need?
Are all the key jobs covered? If not, should we be developing people right now?
By collecting all the information from these sources it is then a case of collating it and determining what needs to be done. But here is another trap. It does not mean we have to go out looking for training courses.
If our training and development needs are documented in terms of objectives, that is, what someone should be able to do after they have received the development, rather than "attend management course" there are usually several options available. For some of these there may be no direct cost.
An example may be "To be able to accurately set up systems for recording and analysing data and prepare reports with recommendations and action", not "advanced Excel course" With some creative effort you may find there are experts in the organization already who can provide some assistance in the relevant areas without the expense and inconvenience of an external training course.
Also, it is worth noting that when research is conducted into why people prefer certain employers, high up on the list is usually the growth and development opportunities available. Accurately and actively identifying development needs makes good business sense.
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Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. He has over 30 years experience in HR and, while based in Australia, has worked in a number of overseas locations. www.horizonmg.com
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