The tools and techniques needed to solve today’s real-world problems are constantly changing. Customers and organizations have expectations that require teams to have advanced skills to create new and more innovative products and services faster. Innovation doesn’t just happen by chance, but is more likely to occur when individuals collaborate, have foundational skills, and have systems in place to help them apply knowledge in new ways when they need it.
Build the Right Employee Training Program
As a company that specializes in teach others, I can’t stress enough the importance of treating an employee training program like any other project. Incorporating some planning and analysis upfront ensures that the problem is solved with a solution that delivers the most business value.
Before you embark on improving your skill set with training, it’s critical that you can articulate the why, the what, and the how. This quick analysis will drive content and delivery method, and it will ensure that the employee training program you design is tailored to your specific needs. Be sure that you are building the right training program that focuses the available training time on your priorities, not the latest craze or a vendor’s standard offerings. You should understand:
Why training is required?
- Are there immediate problems or pain points occurring that you want to ensure you resolve?
- Are there new innovations you’re working on that may require new knowledge or skills in the future?
- Are your teams and stakeholders struggling to work well together in a collaborative manner?
- Are you trying to level set your team or increase their maturity level?
What specific skills and/or knowledge do you need to achieve your goals?
- Have you identified the skill gaps and determined the highest priorities?
- Do you know what you don’t know, or do you need help first to determine what’s missing?
How should the training be delivered or consumed?
There are so many delivery method options for learning, including Instructor-led, Instructional Videos, eLearning, Written Materials, Hands-on Experience/Workshops, and Webinars just to name a few. Each has their own pros and cons determined primarily by the content as well as the audience and outcomes desired.
For example, you may find eLearning an effective delivery method to review new regulations related to governance because it may be something you need to be aware of but not have to act on. In comparison, critical thinking and analytical skills are more effective in a collaborative setting, where participants can be challenged and allowed to compare and contrast. For topics requiring analysis, evaluation, and innovative cognitive processes, it’s crucial to have it delivered in a manner that is consumable and reinforced over a longer period of time.
Once you’ve answered the why, the what, and the how of your employee training program, you should develop a transition plan that establishes the AS IS versus TO BE states to help your teams move from knowledge to creativity and innovation. To deliver real business value from training, individuals must have acquired knowledge and skills and then have the motivation and support to apply that knowledge. Motivation is only possible if the learner understands Why they should have the knowledge and have a need and opportunity to utilize it. Lack of motivation is sometimes due to lack of confidence. An effective training session will help build that confidence by offering a safe environment to practice new skills and approaches.
Even with the best training experience, reaching a level to be able to apply the skills and techniques to any new situation will take time, practice, and continuous learning. Learners mature through the phases from remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, until eventually they are able to form a coherent whole or create a new point of view or innovation. That’s when real learning has occurred and organizations will see teams at their highest maturity levels. (Get more detailed information on Bloom’s Taxonomy.)
Maximizing Your Investment
Once a decision has been made to embark on training, there are some very tactical steps that can be taken to maximize your investment in training. We’ve shared below some of our recommendations for more effective learning for before, during, and after each training session, which will reinforce progression through the learning phases.
Before Training Class
- Communicate with both participants and management prior to class to understand what will be learned and why training is being conducted.
- Establish a feedback session for participants to share what they learned and how it will be put into practice.
- Identify a project, within a short period of time, that will allow the participants to implement their newly gained knowledge.
- Assign mentors to attend the class with less experienced participants and then partner on an upcoming assignment.
- Gain executive buy-in to this new training initiative. For example: invite your CIO to join the group for lunch and discuss what is being learned and how it can benefit the company.
- Schedule training classes six weeks apart to allow time for students to use what they have learned. At the next class, students will have the opportunity to review what they learned and ask questions.
- Baseline your current practices in order to identify metrics to measure process improvements that can be seen six months to one year after training.
- Send the whole team assigned to large projects to fundamental skills training together.
- Provide an overview of the team member roles to key stakeholders to help them embrace new processes and understand how critical the stakeholder’s involvement is to that process.
- Have a senior-level employee kick off class to ensure that students fully understand why they are in class and that management is supportive.
- Ensure that an adequate-sized facility and room configuration is available for the interactive workshop nature of the class or a quiet uninterrupted space for live virtual learning.
- Consider scheduling a ½ day Management Seminar to keep management informed and engaged in the training goals and measurements.
During Training Class
- Bring existing or upcoming projects to class.
- Tap into our instructors for their vast knowledge and experience about challenges on projects.
- Send a mixture of seasoned and new participants to class so the more experienced ones can provide clarity about current company practices and ensure a consistent approach on projects. We find that experienced participants learn as much as less experienced; the level and application ideas are just at a different level.
- Keep an open mind about new ideas and approaches.
- Think about how you will utilize these new techniques on your projects and track on your individualized action plan.
- Remind yourself that on new development projects, not all techniques can or will be used.
After Training Class – Management Team
- Meet with participants individually within 24 hours after class to discuss briefly what they learned and review action plans.
- Establish a Community of Practice for continued support and educational growth.
- Establish a Center of Excellence for standards and accountability.
- Develop an implementation approach for new techniques. For example: pilot a small project, document best practices, identify procedural changes, and share findings with other teams.
- Socialize successes (especially ROI) with others in the organization.
- Continue improvement by establishing an assessment process to evaluate and deliver overall performance.
- Create a mentoring program for continued learning and development.
- Allow students to “call it a day” after training classes so they can better retain the information they just learned.
After Training Class – Participants
- Practice, practice, practice.
- Meet with your manager to review your individual action plan.
- Participate in our Make Learning Stick program, which is included with all training sessions.
- Participate in industry events, conferences, and online communities and blogs.
- As you become more skilled, volunteer for challenging projects and new business areas to broaden and deepen your experience.
- Learn about and try new techniques to communicate more clearly with stakeholders.
- Plan tasks that add value to the project and the business objectives.
- Be a consistent advocate for your business stakeholders.
- Focus on most important tasks first – report risks early.
- Keep a positive attitude when projects become challenging.
- Establish yourself as the problem solver – not the project complainer on the team.
- Remain flexible in your role to adapt depending on the project’s needs.
Many of the new innovations required today cannot be achieved without critical thinking skills and knowledge that are ideally learned first in a classroom or formal learning setting, but, that’s just the first step. Training should not be a one-time event where you check the box and move on. Your time and money will be wasted and the organization will realize little to no value. However, training can be a single session that shares critical new knowledge and skills then reinforces it with follow through and ongoing application support.
Whether you need training in analysis or any other area of expertise, our Maximize Your Training Investment Worksheet and Checklist can help ensure you have analyzed your training needs and planned appropriately for before, during, and after training.
We would love the opportunity to help and hope this provided some guidance for your professional development efforts.
All the best,