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Training Is an Enabler, It’s Not the Solution

Investing in training for yourself or team members isn’t a bad thing, as long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.

In the HDI Support Center Manager class, we talk about training as being an element of an effective approach to teamwork and employee retention. I like delivering training classes, and the SCM class is one of my favorite classes to teach. I enjoy sharing knowledge, interacting with students, and learning from students (yes, I usually learn something from the students for which I am delivering training). For me, even though it is a lot of work, delivering training is a lot of fun.

The first question that I always ask my classes is, “Why do you want to invest in training?”

Don’t get me wrong. Training investments in yourself or team members is not a bad thing. In many cases, training is a great thing to do. Training can pay off in many ways, including growing skills and knowledge, improving morale, building new capabilities, enhancing an individual’s sense of value and worth, and enabling career growth. These are great reasons for investing time and money in training.

But I sometimes encounter situations where “training” is nothing more than a tick-box on a manager’s to-do list. Or “completing a training class” is the answer for a (perceived) performance issue. And for some class participants, the goal is simply to pass the after-class exam – they’re unable to articulate any expectations for being in the training class.

In any of the above scenarios, I would argue that investing in training is a waste of time and money.

Why Training Isn’t a Solution

Unfortunately, too many managers view training as a solution. I would say that training is part of an overall solution. Often, training is needed to address a knowledge gap and develop new skills and competencies. Or perhaps an organization is preparing to deliver a new product or service, and training would provide the information and confidence needed to support that new product or service. In these situations, training should be a part of an overall implementation plan.

But in most cases, training is not a solution. Training is not a solution when:

  • The problem to be “solved” … has not been defined. Getting everyone trained on some subject doesn’t solve cultural, procedural, or organizational challenges that are already present. No matter how good the training content and delivery, training can’t address issues that an organization hasn’t identified or defined.
  • The expectation is a student will immediately become the “expert.” In time, when students can apply what they have learned, a student can become highly skilled and competent regarding the topics discussed in a training class. Not to diminish the accomplishment, but earning a certificate does not immediately mean “expert”. It means that a student has met the standard for passing the certification exam. That student will need the opportunity, time, and support to apply the learnings from a training class.

Getting the Most from Your Training Investment

Training represents an investment in both the individual and the organization. But the fact is that students will only get good results from training by putting a good effort into the training class. What should a student do to set themselves up for success with training?

  • Allocate the time – It is imperative that a student blocks out their schedule to give themself the time to fully engage in a training class. And this must include time at the end of each training day to review the materials and exercises that were discussed in class.
  • Be fully present – Work demands can often distract from training. Turn off email and put that smartphone in silent mode during class to allow you to be fully present in class.
  • Engage – Participate in discussions and exercises and ask questions to get the complete benefit from a training class.
  • Be open to learning – Training classes often present concepts that are new or maybe even contrary to how a student or an organization is currently doing work. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that the student or their organization is “doing it wrong”, think of it as an alternative way of thinking about how to handle a task or challenge. Also, consider that others have had success with the concepts and approaches that are being presented in class.
  • Be selfish –Yes, it’s time to be a little selfish and define personal goals for training. What do you want from the training class? Is it to develop skills and mastery around a concept? Perhaps it is a step toward career advancement.
  • Take that exam soon– If a certification exam is offered as part of training, commit to taking the exam within the following week to ten days after the conclusion of the class. By taking the certification exam in a timely manner, the learning will still be “fresh”, which increases the chances of passing the exam. Earning that certificate quickly after training also instills confidence and increases self-esteem.

But it’s not just a student’s responsibility to get the most from training investments. Managers should also ensure that investments in training are delivering impactful results. What are some things that managers should do to ensure good outcomes from training investments?

  • Establish learning objectives – Prior to purchasing a class, work with team members to establish two to three learning objectives for training. Not only will this encourage students to engage in the training discussions and activities, but it also establishes expectations for the training class.
  • Define success criteria – Managers should meet with students prior to a class and develop a mutually agreed set of success criteria for training. How will both the student and the organization ensure that training investments will result in success?
  • Support students while they are in a training class – Ensure that students can allocate time and be fully present in a class by proactively re-assigning work activities to other team members while the student is participating in class. It sounds obvious, but as an instructor, I frequently have students being pulled out of class to take care of an issue that seemingly could have been assigned to another team member.

Rather than look at training as a solution, consider training as an investment that enables both the student and the organization to achieve objectives. By taking the above actions, both the student and the organization can set themselves up for success with training.

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