By: Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., President, The Discovery Group
When work is not being performed properly, management's first instinct is to blame employees. Often, however, the problem is not the employee. It is a lack of tools and equipment, inappropriate procedures, ineffective supervision, or a lack of training.
Only one of two employees believes that their organization has done a good job of providing them with the training they need to do their job well. This lack of training is a problem for both employees and employers.
1) The problem for employees - Without the proper training, employees are not able to fully use their skills and abilities. They can become frustrated due to their inability to perform at an optimal level.
2) The problem for employers - If employees are not fully trained, then the work is not being performed at a high level. Undoubtedly, the quality of the organization's products and services are suffering.
What Management Can Do
Systematically Assess Training Needs
The job skills required to be successful are constantly evolving due to changes in technology and customer needs. Carefully conducted "training needs assessments" identify gaps in employee skills. The organization can then focus on what type of training employees really need rather than on what training employees would like to have.
Evaluate Training Programs
Unfortunately, a very small percentage of training programs is systematically evaluated. To do so requires the following three steps:
a) Identify the objectives of the training program;
b) Establish a benchmark prior to the training; and
c) Compare the before and after results.
If, for example, your objective is to increase customer satisfaction by improving the telephone skills of your staff, only by comparing the before and after customer satisfaction results will it become clear that the
effort was worthwhile. Without such studies, senior management often feels that they are just wasting their money on training.
Invest in Training During Down Periods
Senior management must change their mindset from viewing training as an expense, to viewing it as an important investment in their business. Training budgets are often the first to be cut during challenging economic times. It makes more sense, however, to focus on training when there is a lull in business. When business is slow, employees are more able to take time from their work to attend training sessions.
Encourage Employees to be Open and Honest About Their Needs
Employees have a tendency to say that they don't need training even if they know that they really do. Consequently, they say nothing, leaving management in the dark. Employees need to take responsibility to say to their supervisors, "I need training and here's why."
Use Methods Other Than Classroom Instruction
Traditional classroom instruction is often not the best way to teach job skills. Computer-assisted instruction, web-based training programs, and audio or video training are some of the many techniques that enable individuals to work at their own pace and learn more than they would in a classroom setting.
Make Certain Supervisors Support the Transfer of Training
Supervisors must be open to change. Very often supervisors discourage and even chastise employees for using the new skills that they were taught in training programs. It is no surprise that those skills are, therefore, not used back on the job.
In summary, management must view training as an important business investment. "Training needs assessments" and "training program evaluations" are the two critically important methods for ensuring that employees receive the training that they really need and that the training is effective.
Submitted by, Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, Management Consultant, Speaker
President of THE DISCOVERY GROUP
Sharon, MA 888-784-4367