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Passion, People and Principles

Saving the Training Baby

post # 40 — March 31, 2006 — a Managing post

In my blogpost Why Training is Useless there is a challenge from a reader – David G – that I should not throw out the baby with the bathwater, and should offer some concrete suggestions on how to make training work.

Fair enough. Here goes with some principles of mine for effective training.

  1. It is usually better to train people in groups formed from the operating units they work in, so that the training can be action- and decision-oriented. (Collective commitments.) Training classes drawn from different parts of the firm force program to be ‘educational’ only. I prefer it when training sessions end with specific action commitments, which are monitorable.
  2. You shouldn’t overwhelm people and cover too much territory: depth, then breadth! You’re better off with three 2-day programs than one 6-day programs.
  3. It really helps if the operating group leader attends the training simultaneously, as a participant. In fact, it should be mandatory. This ensures action-orientation, public commitment (‘We’re going to do this!’) Too often, we send the junior people off to be trained, and they continue to speculate whether the seniors or leaders are really committed and serious about all this. Even if they’ve heard it a million times, it’s good for them to be there. If it’s designed to be action oriented, it’s also economic for them to be there.
  4. To make changes in behavior, there are four key levels to make the change:

    System: Does the firm actually encourage, monitor and reward this (new) behavior?

    Attitude: Do the trainees want to do this? Do they buy in to its importance?

    Knowledge: Do they know how to do it?

    Skills: Are they any good at implementing and executing what they know?

  5. Each of these levels requires a different intervention. But note that skills (ie training, is bottom of the list, not top! As I said in my first blogpost on training, training is a great last step in a new initiative, but a pathetically ineffective first step.
  6. The best training is done by the firm’s own practitioners. Outsiders should be used only to help develop programs and ‘train-the-trainers.’
  7. If there is not a monitoring system to ensure that training will be implemented, then you’ll get a low return on your training investment. A full program would have:

    a) Scorecards: (New, permanent measures of performance being trained)

    b) Coaching: (Continuous monitoring and Follow-up)

    c) Tools: (To help implement the training, in place before the training)

    d) Training:

    e) Rewards and/or Recognition for achievement

  8. All professionals should be required to both undergo and conduct a minimum number of days training per year, but allow flexibility on what.
  9. Don’t confuse training with (general) education. Training helps people do their job.(What do I need today) Education expands their horizons (What should I be thinking about for the future?). There’s a role for both, but they’re not the same.
  10. To ensure discipline, training should have mandatory pre-testing (can’t attend if you don’t pass), and a survey (3 months later) not only of participants but of their supervisors, asking whether the training has been implemented to productive effect.

One of the best recent think-pieces on training that I’ve seen recently is by Mick Cope, a UK-based consultant. His website is here and he tells me he’ll be posting his new article there on April 1 or 2.

1 Comment

David G said:

Thanks David, great advice.

I especially like #8 – you learn SO much by teaching that all management should be required to do so.

posted on March 31, 2006