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 A Systems Approach to Training

Introduction

The purpose of training is to support the achievement of organization goals.  The focus should be on providing individuals the skills and knowledge necessary to be effective in their responsibilities. To identify these training needs, an organization must be clear about its goals and assess what will be needed to reach them.

Step 1: Identify organization goals and plans

A first step is to identify current goals and goals at least 1-3 years into the future.  For example, if it is planned to restructure or pursue new areas of business or move to a team based organization, this will impact the type of skills required in the future.

The second part of this step is to develop a plan for achieving these goals or changes.  It is this planning piece that is often missing.  It is important to understand that moving forward requires a change plan and all parts of the organization system must be in sync or there will be no forward motion. 

Step 2: Identify competencies

A next step is to identify the skills, knowledge and abilities (or competencies) required for success in a position.  Then individuals can be compared against these competencies and this gap between what's required in the position and the individual's current level of skills and knowledge becomes the basis of the training. 

This is an important step as trainees need to understand where they are lacking and be committed to closing the gap.   Some organizations miss this step, and find out later that trainees weren't motivated to learn the information presented.

Step 3: Decide on the best approach

Once the gap is identified, the organization is ready to select the most appropriate approach to developing the skills and knowledge. Regardless of the method selected, there are some important factors to address that will increase the effectiveness of the training and assist the participants in applying the learning back on the job.

Increasing the effectiveness of training

1.  The training is timely to what's needed on the job. 

 It increases success if individuals receive the training as they are beginning to use it on the job, basically on a "just-in time" basis.  If the new information is presented too soon and isn't utilized, it will be lost or applied incorrectly.  If the training is presented as needed, trainees can use the information while it is current and increase the probability of successful application.

 2.  There is an immediate application back to the job

Trainees will more likely learn new information, if it has relevance and immediate application to helping them on the job.  Teaching a long term planning process when they're having trouble getting the work out on a daily basis may actually frustrate a trainee.  It may be better to help solve an immediate problem first and then move to future issues.

 3.  The training is reinforced by the organization.

Not only should attendance at the training be supported and considered important, but the information being presented should be reinforced by managers and even modeled by them.  For example, if trainees are instructed to provide feedback on performance using clear, specific, behavioral examples and then upper management doesn't follow this same process, then trainees are more likely to revert back to the old ways of giving feedback.

4.  Trainees have some input into the training.

Creating the motivation to learn is very important to the success of training.  Individuals are usually more committed when they have been asked for their ideas.  This might be done by involving trainees in identifying problems they are having or even by offering ideas on the training itself.

5.  Trainees are prepared prior to attending the training.

When trainees come to training, unclear on why they have been sent, they usually don't get the most out of the training experience.  It can help to include an assessment of skills identifying gaps, a meeting with supervisor discussing the importance and expectations of the organization and answering any questions and concerns.

Training as an investment

Training represents an important investment in the organization not only in the dollars for the design and delivery of the sessions but in the salaries of the trainees and the time away from the tasks on the job. 

Given this cost, it becomes critical that a total systems approach to the training be implemented.  It is essential that the training provides the skills and knowledge to impact business performance.

For example, team leaders are often promoted based on technical competence so it is very important to identify the competencies for this new position and communicate the expectations.  This step alone can improve performance by clarifying and communicating what skills and behavior are needed for success in this different role.

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