Staff Training: Time for Realignment

Staff Training: Part of the Strategic Plan

Survival in a tough economy is not a matter of chance, but rather a matter of careful strategic planning and thorough reassessment of current practices. Competitive strategies need to be developed, and they need to go far beyond just staying afloat. A critical part of the process includes a long hard look at how we deal with staff training each year. We are presented with the rare opportunity to review and revamp how we look at staff development and education. Given the circumstances, organizations would be remiss not to take advantage of this opportunity.

One fact about this economic crisis, and any other crisis, is that organizations cannot completely stop training staff, just as we cannot just stop marketing, or stop spending altogether. We just need to be very precise on how we do these things, and be diligent during the implementation of our revised plans.

Carelessly cutting budgets without carefully considering mid- and long-term impact on productivity and profitability is just as dangerous as wasting money when the times are good. This is not the right time to act with an axe, but rather with the precision of a scalpel. Instead of giving in to fear and anxiety, leadership teams and managers need to take these three key steps:

  • Determine your business objectives and realign your staff education goals.
  • Take purpose-driven steps to eliminate waste.
  • Reinforce, remediate, and retool.

Realignment and business objectives

Take a look at your organization’s business goals and check to see if your education programs are aligned to help you meet those goals.

For example, if one of your goals is to improve profitability by reducing billing errors by 3% each quarter, you should have a supporting educational solution that addresses the most common billing mistakes your team members run into.

If on the other hand you find that billing staff are enrolled in advanced courses to learn more about how to use Microsoft Office software, you may need to realign your training needs and budget accordingly.
You must answer these questions:

  • Are our educational programs and offerings directly related to any of our business goals?
  • Are these educational offerings helping us meet or exceed our objectives?
  • What learning offerings are we lacking in order to help our staff meet or exceed our objectives?

One item that is easily forgotten at the start of the year is that there may be updates or changes that require just-in-time training interventions. You should allocate a portion of your budget to education programs designed to maintain necessary updates in order to avoid a last minute crunch.

Take purpose-driven steps to eliminate waste

Next comes looking at dispensing with all unnecessary training, and seeking more efficient ways to deliver and even develop training.

E-learning and other methods of distance and asynchronous learning may be better suited to today’s conditions.

Furthermore, the development of training may be best left for outsourced resources rather than internal staff and managers, who need to focus on other aspect of the business.

Reinforce, remediate, and retool

In times of difficulty, stress sets in, and staff are more likely to be distracted and make mistakes. Your goals and objectives need to be supported by an ongoing developmental support plan that includes coaching, informal learning, and re-training. There are 3 reasons for re-training.

  • You need to reinforce best practices, so that the best performers continue to operate at peak performance despite the circumstances.
  • You also need to correct and remediate any performance errors and improve low productivity. Remedial training efforts can help improve both areas.
  • Finally, you need to account for lost jobs. Many employees now need to cover for others who have lost their jobs, while they perform their own regular duties. These staff members need retooling training to support their confidence and to ensure they are prepared for their new work demands.

For consultation services on how to manage your education programs during a difficult economy, contact Learning4Managers

Knowing the Job Doesn’t Equal Training Skills

Staff Training is a Specialized Skill

The situation is all too common. An organization, in this case a call center, wants the senior associates to coach and train the less experienced employees. So the mandate comes from above that each one of the more experienced staff should plan to do a series of presentations for their units.

Is this a good idea? Let’s be brutally honest with ourselves for a minute. Not everyone is a good presenter. Even with training, there will be those who will stick to reading every word off each slide of a PowerPoint presentation. Others will be long-winded lecturers, and others will simply resent the fact that they are being forced to speak in front of a crowd.

It is true, seniority often means more experience and skill at doing one’s job, but the fact that one can do one’s job well does not immediately translate into being able to train someone else the job. To force staff training on senior staff may lead to conflict and frustration.

Before we send out global mandates like these, let’s remember some of the basic rules of employee engagement. If people are not properly outfitted with the tools for the job, they are likely to fail. If you plan to have your senior staff become the training and coaching body of your junior staff, make sure that you follow these steps

First we need to assess the capabilities of the individual. Perhaps the person is not a good public speaker now, but with training and support he might become one. Or perhaps public speaking is not this person’s strength. Instead this person may be a great coach.  See who is best suited for different staff development tasks. Some will be better presenters than others, some will be better coaches, etc.

Then support them by offering them training and resources to become better at their given task (coaching, delivering training, etc.). Finally, continue to assess their skill level and continue to support their growth and development as part of your staff development strategy.

If you need assistance developing a training strategy for your organization, feel free to get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to help you develop the best strategy for your situation.

Multi-platform Learning Development

An Approach for Holistic Learning Development

A balanced view of learning requires us to recognize and understand that we do not learn in a way, we learn in many ways .

I recall a situation where a director of a marketing organization requested my assistance with a problem. Some of her employees kept running into problems with the clients due to seemingly unforeseen events. She wanted to know if there was some kind of training to resolve the problem.

This was not the first, nor last time I have heard the same request. Not only is there an assumption that the problem’s solution is in training alone, without considering other factors. Many managers have in their mind that when facing a problem, the solution may be in some sort of training program. Mind you, the manager is not considering a long-term process here. They are looking for the silver bullet. The magic pill. The cure to the problem that will in fix it all in just one single instance or intervention.

Fortunately, learning does not work that way. I say fortunately, because if learning was this simple, we probably would have never developed critical thinking skills, nor would we be able to learn from our experiences. We need to face the fact that learning is a complex process composed of many complex sub-processes.

Let’s assume our manager’s problem was indeed one that could be solved with training. You have seen this before, what happens 30 days after the workshop? Studies reveal we will have forgotten most, if not all, of what was taught. That is unless we take some countermeasures to avoid this loss.

Learning requires a Multiplatform approach. If we are thinking of a workshop, immediately we need to also think of supporting the content so it is not forgotten. One vehicle could be ongoing reviews with the individual’s supervisor. Or an informal monthly quiz.

By using several platforms to support the same content over a period of time, we help the individual internalize this knowledge. Once this happens, the person will be able to use the new knowledge more efficiently.

Systematic Approach to Training SAT

Who Does What in the Systematic Approach to Training SAT?

SAT is essentially a blueprint that we use to walk organizations through the design of their training solutions. The most widely used model of SAT used in designing a learning initiative is a process named ADDIE. ADDIE stands for: Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, Evaluation.

But who does all this? Who should be involved at each step of the process?

Each organization will have a different way to approach SAT depending on the project, available staff, resources, and timelines.

Here is a suggested approach and guidance:

Analysis

In this phase you determine the need, the goal, and the gap in-between the two. To this end, it is good for you to establish a project advisory board.

In this board it is a good idea to include someone at the highest appropriate level of management to champion the project and who will keep everyone accountable for the end result of the learning initiative.

You may also want to include feedback from prospective learners and Subject Matter Experts (SEM’s), so make sure their voice is represented in the board. Finally don’t forget the end-user, the recipient of whatever results the training may bring.

To make things run smoothly, we strongly suggest you appoint a project coordinator or Project Manager (PM) to oversee this stage.

Design

Here you will begin the work of developing a learning solution. For this phase you will need the help of an Instructional Designer (ID), and SMEs who will work together with the PM .

Here we have to answer another question: What is an Instructional Designer and what do they do?

We’ll cover that in Part II.

Connecting Customer Education & Staff Training

In business, these are two simple truths we often ignore:

  • If your customers don’t understand how to use your product or service, they’ll leave.
  • If your employees don’t know how or what to communicate to customers and peers, their productivity will be poor.

Either way, your bottom line suffers because of lacking knowledge. Your most cost-effective solution: Customer Education & Staff Training.

Customer Education

Your customers need to know about you, your products and your services.

  • Marketing and branding: Your customers need to know who you are and what you do.
  • Products: Your customers need demonstrations or user-friendly instructions.
  • Services: Your customers may need presentations or a walk-through.

Here are some ways to increase customer knowledge:

  • Educational Games and Activities: Feature a product or a service online by using an interactive game.
  • Friendly Challenges: Invite your customers to a friendly competition and to test their skill and knowledge with an online pop-quiz.
  • Product guides and tours: Provide CD-Rom or web–based tutorials, product guides, and virtual tours.

Staff Training

Skills required to make your business a success:

  • Communication : Essential to working with customers and peers. Only people with above average skills will be successful.
  • Leadership : There is only room for people who demonstrate solid leadership skills. Help your staff improve.

Here are some ways to improve staff training:

  • Self-paced training: Build a CD-Rom or Web-based training library that staff can access at their convenience or on-demand.
  • Just-in-time training: When launching a new product or service, broadcast a presentation over the Web and showcase new features.
  • Orientation: Reduce cost by converting orientation and other training into cost-effective online modules.

For an assessment of your situation and possible learning solutions, contact Learning4Managers

Keys to Organizational Learning

Examining What Drives an Organization to Improvement Through Learning

Recently I was asked question in a forum about the three most important elements, processes, or systems which drive organizational learning. In my reply, I stated that this can be analyzed from multiple angles; however, the most elemental pieces include

  • In the right organization: strategy
  • In a mediocre organization: someone’s impetus or impulse
  • In the wrong organization: reaction to a problem or crisis.

I find that the best organizations manage their learning initiatives as a very important part of their business strategy and objectives.

In order to support the organization’s strategy, the best organizations will put into place these three key elements:

  • The people (they come first). Get the right learning champion first, then give that person the right staff, and let them Identify the right learners. If they are the right people they will be smart enough to know how to identify the right business objectives and how to put together the right programs for the right people.
  • The infrastructure. People need the right tools to do their job, otherwise even the best people are doomed to fail.
  • Finally, the support. From money to time, someone has to support the learning operation with real assets. If not, you hired a lot of good people and bought a lot of nice equipment and software, but rendered the team impotent.

Learning4Managers is a staff and customer training and development service by Accolade Institute, Inc. Although we are based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we offer services to clients worldwide. We help with projects of all sizes and complexities. Beyond simply putting a curriculum or a course together, we will help you think through the entire strategy, from training development to content delivery, course marketing, and more.

See what Learning4Managers can do for your organization