The debate about the efficacy of training rages on and at Helmsman we regularly come across people who cannot see the benefits of training. This applies to every facet of a business from Customer Care (“No-one has ever complained about the way I have handled them, so we must be good”) to Health and Safety (“ I’ve been 10 years on this site and nothing has ever happened, so what’s the point?).
Management is not immune to excuses either, often adopting the attitude:
“I’m busy having to handle urgent things every day and just don’t have the time to attend courses.”
In an ideal world what should happen is that people attend a training session with a positive frame of mind, take ideas away from it and then work out how they can adapt them to their situation, to improve what they do. But they require help and support to do this.
To get the maximum from training, first and foremost, a person’s attitude has to be right – something that is often forgotten.
Negative attitudes towards training produce hostages in the sessions and so training does not produce beneficial results. They also fly in the face of fact. Everyone can, and should, want ‘lifelong learning’ to develop their skills to the next level, whatever that might be.
When training is identified, there needs to be a positive attitude engendered that says- ‘This training will benefit me’. To get this buy-in is helped immensely by managers who clarify training objectives for the individual. A challenge is then set and the person should know what they should be doing differently after the training.
The other attitude required is that the person takes steps to put their new knowledge and learning into action. Again, this requires support from the manager who should be reviewing what has been learnt, coaching to apply the ideas and checking how it has helped towards the objectives.
But in my opinion the quality of managers in this regard is generally very poor. They are primarily focused on ‘doing’ rather than ‘managing’ and so it’s no wonder that the success of training is sometimes not all that it should be.
A common refrain goes something like this: “I sent him/her on a course and there hasn’t been any change.” However, if there was never any discussion about what actual training was required and if neither before nor after, no-one identified what needed to change and what outcome was expected, training will never produce the required results.
Managers must help people get the right attitudes before and after training, set them clear objectives and then, afterwards, coach them to do things differently. Once this happens, people will attend a course with a positive attitude and will probably learn something new and be motivated to put it into practice.
And as for the managers, if they are not good at doing all of these things, then they need to make time for some training! Fortunately, there are many excellent training providers who can provide professional training for all types of businesses.
About the Author
Tony Willson is Managing Director of Helmsman Services Ltd in Colchester, a company that coordinates and administers training on behalf of clients.