For the past several months, we have been working our way through the five reasons that employees do not perform well. As stated in the lead article, the first four: a lack of clear objectives, roadblocks internal to the company, a need for training and development and finally, improper motivation are often a result of poor management practices. If business is all about figuring out what to do and getting people to do it, then concentrating your efforts of those issues that you can affect makes good business sense. This month's article will address the third of the levers managers can pull: training and developing employees.
Most of my career has focused on creating effective workforces. As you may guess, I am a huge proponent of training and developing workers. Well-trained workers produce more with higher quality and less scrap. Developing employees can prepare them for future challenges and other roles in your organization. But, training and development is not always the answer. Don't get pulled into the training trap - if my folks are underperforming, I should provide more training. Make sure you analyze the situation fully, considering all of the five possible reasons employees underperform.
However, if you believe that training is the answer there are a few questions to ask. First, exactly what do I want my employees to be able to do differently as a result of the training? Do they need to recognize quality problems, answer customer questions more completely and accurately, garner more sales? Once you have analyzed the need, you can determine the make or buy decision. Do you have the skills and resources to provide the training internally, or would it make more sense to engage resources outside of your organization to develop and/or deliver the training?
Internal to the organization: Many organizations provide new employee orientation and on-the-job training (OJT). Training normally consists of one or more experienced employees passing on her/ his knowledge to the newcomer. Since many smaller organizations don't have well documented processes, the success of such programs is highly variable and becomes dependent on the skills of the experience employee to deliver consistent information. Even when process is in place, most internal OJT and orientation programs have no clear objectives and do not measure outcomes. If an employee fails to "catch on," rightly or wrongly it is often attributed to the student, not the teacher or the training itself.
Internal training can be highly effective, but requires that the organization determine training objectives, develop processes/curriculum and deliver the information in a way that maximizes the probability that the employee will perform in the desired way. Finally, you should create methods to evaluate the outcomes. Determining whether or not the organization has the time and the expertise to develop and deliver these programs is critical to the overall success of your organization.
External to the organization: Sometimes it makes sense to bring in outside resources. Organizations can use human resource development (HRD) professionals in a variety of ways:
Determine training needs - experienced HRD professionals can conduct surveys, focus groups, interviews and other techniques to help an organization determine the skill and knowledge gaps in its workforce. Gap analysis can ascertain exact needs allowing the organization to target training and development to specific individuals or organizational requirements saving both time and money.
Develop curriculum - sometimes the organization knows what it needs but does not have the time or the expertise to create the programs and materials. In this case, the company should hire an outside expert to work with one or more subject matter experts (SME) internal to the organization to develop the curriculum. The SMEs provide the internal knowledge while the HRD expert develops the appropriate materials.
Delivering information - If you want a message given special attention, having an outside "expert" deliver it may do the trick. Internal experts can suffer from "prophet in their own land" syndrome. Even though Judy has been telling people something for years, having an outside expert say basically the same thing can add credibility and therefore, help to change behavior.
Determining delivery - An outside expert may be able to help you determine the best method/s for delivering the information. Would your organization be best served by using a classroom method, via computer, through self-study or a combination of these or other vehicles? An experienced HRD professional can help you to determine the most effective methodologies given your specific goals.
Evaluating training - Finally, an HRD professional can help you to determine the effectiveness of your training. How much and what did the participants learn? What knowledge, skills and behaviors have they used in their job and did the changes have the desired effect? Measuring the results of your training and determining ROI can help you to improve your training processes.
Whether you decide to assess needs, develop and deliver your training internally or use the skills of an expert to help with some or all of the process, the focus must be on increasing the skills and performance of the employee. If you concentrate on outcomes, your training will benefit your organization.