“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
How many times have you sent your team members on training programs and afterwards wondered why you even bothered? Many managers feel frustrated when they allow their team to take time off work to be trained, then don’t see any results afterwards. It can often seem like a huge waste of time and money and many managers don’t realise a few simple actions might deliver better results.
Training can be mandated by head office, it can be suggested by the employee, it might be recommended by HR or you might identify a program that you believe will help a team member. Yet we are often ahead of ourselves – trying to find a solution before we’ve identified the problem or indeed that there is a problem in the first place! Or we might be ‘ticking an employee development box’, trying to keep an employee happy or even just getting them out of the office for a few days! So before you throw someone into a training program, make sure you have covered off a few basic steps. The tips below are no guarantee, although they should help you start to see better results for your investment.
1. Identify specific strengths and gaps
Take a few moments to write down what you see as the strengths and gaps (areas for development) for the individual. Be specific – don’t just say “good at their job” – identify what specifically it is that they do well or what specifically they could be doing better. For the developmental areas, consider what behaviours you would like to see if they had closed the gap in this area. Finally, prioritise developmental areas – their importance to the individual’s ability to do their job is a good starting point. After you have done this for your employee, it’s a great idea to have a conversation with them to see if you are on the same page – ask them what they think their strengths and development areas might be, then share your thoughts. This opens up constructive dialogue, helps raise their self-awareness, and by asking for their input, you are encouraging them to take responsibility. In these discussions, generally it is best to start with strengths as these are so important to acknowledge!
2. Determine cause of gaps: skill, knowledge, experience or capability
Areas for development have many different causes for each individual. Sometimes it is a skill that they are unfamiliar with, or it may be some background knowledge is missing. Perhaps they have not had the opportunity to demonstrate a skill. Or maybe they do not have the capability to close the gap in development – this might relate to emotional or intellectual intelligence, geographical location or other physical barriers. Of course, often the cause of the gap is an overlap of some of these aspects. Once you know the cause/s of a developmental gap, it will help you determine what might be needed from a learning program. As with point 1. above, and other points below, often this can be a joint discussion with the individual.
3. Understand how they like to learn
Different people learn differently. Take a moment to uncover how your employee BEST learns. For example, do they learn through reading, discussions, role-plays, applying skills in the workplace, observing others, and so on. Understanding this will help determine the type of training they might need and also the extra help they might benefit from to support any theoretical learning. And if you don’t know how they like to learn – ASK! Sometimes the way they like to learn will tie in with their strengths – for example, they might bring a very structured and detailed analysis to projects so their learning preference might be to read, take notes and structure the key concepts into memorable points before applying them to a specific task.
4. Identify learning opportunities and plan
Work with the employee to identify a learning plan for closing the gap. Based on their learning preferences, this might involve attending a training program or it may be more comprehensive, like being assigned a specific task, attending training to learn more about the skills required for the task, being coached by an expert in the area and getting feedback at key milestones of the project. Try to incorporate opportunities where they can enjoy and reinforce the learning through use of their strengths – for example, if they are excellent presenters, then have them present the key concepts of any training back to the team afterwards; if they are problem-solvers, ask them to identify areas of the business where the training concepts might improve systems and processes.
5. Reinforce the learning
Prior to beginning their learning plan, including any training sessions, meet with the employee and ask them what they hope to get out of the activities/training. By verbalising their thoughts, they are more likely to take responsibility – they are telling you what they want to learn, so they have to own it. And if they can’t think of anything, perhaps back to point one before you waste money and time! Of course, if you have expectations of their learning that they don’t identify, it’s a good idea to highlight these; they might include how you hope they will apply the skills post training. Then after the training program or learning activity, meet with the employee again to seek their feedback on how they found the learning and what they got out of it; also how they see themselves applying what they learnt back in their daily job. And make sure the learning is reinforced at regular intervals – through follow-up training, discussion, application and coaching, as appropriate. Without effective reinforcement, people will forget, not use effectively or not use at all what they have learnt. Your role as a manager is to help support this reinforcement in an ongoing fashion.
There is no guarantee that you will always get the maximum return on investment for any training that you provide for your employee. What you can do though is to support the learning process effectively to enable the right solution in the right way.
Happy training outcomes!
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