It seems that some people never want to go on a training course and others are constantly away at conferences, seminars and workshops. Having a rational approach to training and development can change a culture, retain staff and save money.
If you start by being proactive and systematically identifying training and development needs rather than reacting to requests, it puts you in control. Once we have clearly identified what we want people to do after the training, we need to look at the most effective ways of achieving it.
Maybe an external training course run by a training organization is the right answer, but there are many other options that should be considered first.
The first option with many training needs is "Can they learn by themselves?" Some motivated employees will buy a book, a CD or log onto the Internet to do research. There are many self-instruction methods that can be utilised and it is often a good test of whether they really do want to learn. By purchasing the material it can usually be passed on to others as it is required. In time, a very useful library can be built up.
Working on a project to learn certain skills is often useful - especially if working alongside someone who can pass on their expertise. Taking a calculated risk and pushing someone into a demanding role on a project team can be very rewarding. Working on a project by themselves in a new area can be useful but make sure some support is available otherwise it may become an unpleasant experience they don't want to repeat.
If you have someone with the expertise that is required, and they can communicate it, ask them to do some coaching. Don't accept the "no time" excuse. It can help both parties and the company by using this method.
Formal internal training
Using an internal expert to run training sessions can be very effective and provide benefits for the trainer as well. Consider a Train the Trainer course for in house experts to increase the chances of their success. Even lunch time workshops to impart some cross functional knowledge can be very useful and soon shows you who is keen to learn.
Job enlargement or rotation
Increasing the size of someone's job or moving them to another position for development purposes can be a very visible way of showing you are serious about development.
It is vital that any development moves should be well planned and documented with objectives clearly stated and commitments by both employee and manager spelled out and signed off as they are met. A good way to identify the desired learning outcome is to ask the question "What do we want the employee to do differently as a result of this action?" With such a plan in place it is easy to review the learning and assess how effective the development has been for both the employee and the organization.
By being systematic and creative with development it is possible to build a culture of being a supportive organization that provides effective career development. With this reputation you can attract and keep the quality people you need and continually improve their performance and satisfaction.
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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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