‘Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to’. That’s Richard Branson’s take on training and it makes sense, but how do you encourage team or personal development in the workplace? And what makes good training anyway?
Here are some of our tips for effective training and cultivating an environment of development that your staff want to get involved in.
Nobody wants to sit in a room and be lectured about something they already do well. It’s a waste of everyone’s time, including yours, not to mention the money and resources.
It’s tempting to opt for mass training, but it’s not the most productive option. To get the most for your time and money you need to invest in individual training.
With personalised training you’re addressing existing problems or areas of weakness and developing your staff, rather than simply providing them with generic, sometimes even irrelevant, information.
Use insightful data
Planning personalised training is easier if you put data on employee performance to use in the right way.
Metrics can help you to get a better idea of what your employees are doing, where they are succeeding and where, perhaps, they need some work.
For sales and marketing teams you can use marketing automation or CRM software to do this.
Remember though that this isn’t about who is hitting targets and who isn’t. ‘Too many managers fall back on … “spreadsheet coaching,” where the focus is on whether the sales staff is hitting its numbers,’ explains Tim Donnelly. While it is relevant, it’s much more productive to look deeper into the issue and figure out the reasons why.
Consider learning styles
Now you’ve figured out who needs what training, the next step is to consider how you’re going to deliver it.
There are a couple of insightful approaches to consider when you’re thinking about pedagogy.
Firstly, the Kolb four stage learning cycle, which summarises how we learn:
- Concrete experience. We go ahead and do something.
- Reflective observation. We think about what we did.
- Abstract conceptualisation. We start to form ideas based on what we did; how can we improve it, what would make it better, more efficient, more enjoyable, less tedious etc.
- Active experimentation. We take those ideas (or the good ones at least) and test them out.
It’s also worth thinking about the 70:20:10 model. This says that 70 percent of lessons are learnt through doing, 20 percent from other people and only 10 percent from courses.
This model goes some way to demonstrating why your approach to training should really be focused on a continuous process, rather than just booking an annual training seminar.
You can easily apply both these systems by implementing a coaching system. Work with staff to decide on an action they’ll take then ask them to evaluate it, discuss how it could be improved and then work with them to make those improvements. This approach actively engages staff in the learning process while providing the ‘doing’ that they’re more likely to learn from.
The idea of on-going, developmental training has been dubbed ‘enablement’ by Daniel Korten of SBI.
Unlike training, which is a one-off, one-size-fits-all approach, enablement is continuous and integrated into daily working life.
Tools like Yammer can be really useful for achieving this. It’s social so it doesn’t feel like work, yet employees will be sharing (and accessing) useful and insightful material, which will increase knowledge and awareness on relevant topics.
Company culture also has a huge role in the enablement approach. You have to be encouraging training for the right reasons. If you’re doing it ultimately to make more money, most employees will struggle to care.
90 percent of companies that employees identify as having a strong purpose, however, also perform well financially – so the time it takes to establish company culture and shared purpose is well worth the investment.
Be clear about responsibility
A strong and empowering company culture, along with a shared purpose, will nurture the element of motivation that is crucial for effective training. A more immediate way to motivate staff is to give them ownership or responsibility. By giving individuals specific responsibilities you are also making them responsible for their ability to perform.
Providing clear and defined job role specifications can also help. Not only does this ensure everyone understands the company’s expectations on their current role, but also provides clarity on what skills they need to demonstrate in order to be promoted or change roles.
Clear and concise communication is vital in an efficient workplace.
The company needs to be able to clearly convey what it wants (including appraisal for when it’s achieved), offers and expects from employees. It also needs to tell employees when they’ve achieved a goal, and praise them for it.
You also need your staff to be able to successfully communicate their needs, goals and intentions. Good communication is a crucial skill for all employees in all industries – writing isn’t just for writers.
If your office communication skills are lacking it’s worth investing in writing training as a starting point.
All tips for effective training go back to the individual
Ultimately good training is all about identifying your staff’s needs, whether that’s where they need development, what their tasks and goals are or even the environment they need to perform at their best.
As is so often the case with anything HR, it’s all about the people.