Monday, 16 September 2013

Puhleeeeze – cut the jargon and do some training!!

This article is intended to give the line manager or small business owner a user friendly, jargon free guide to the identification of training needs and the steps necessary to implement training which focuses on solving specific business problems.  

Let’s cut the jargon – give us some training!!

At a recent industry business convention the guys responsible for the education and training slot were given a prize for having the most jargon in their presentations. Over the years this is an area in which a unique language has developed which is largely incomprehensible to those outside of it.

Be that as it may, as normal business people we need to ensure that our people are in possession of the skills, knowledge and, hopefully, attitudes necessary to function productively. As normal business people we are also concerned about the rapid pace of development which seems to characterise most businesses, meaning that we need to be training all the time if we are to remain competitive. 

Whilst this may be all well and good at a strategic corporate level, how can I, as either a line manager or small business owner, cut through all this jargon and address the skills needs of my unit or my business?

To be focused and effective, training needs to change behavior. Training must be targeted at areas of the individual’s function so as to remove constraints to performance, to improve productivity and/ or to give the individual additional/ different skills to accommodate change. 
Training is all about changing behavior: many of the problems we encounter in the functions we manage revolve around a lack of skills. 

The process which we need to adopt in solving these problems looks like this:


A performance problem needs to be objectively analysed to find its real cause or causes. This phase is essential in gaining an understanding of the problem and determining the scope of the project before attempting to solve it.

Skipping this step by simply implementing an off the shelf training programme which seems to fit the requirement generally results in junk-training, which is just like junk-food - it provides no nutritional value and too much of it is harmful 

This phase is best accomplished by a team comprised of those who are effected by the problem and those who will need to develop the necessary training programme. It may well involve observation of the actual function(s) being carried out.  

At the end of the analysis phase the behavior changes required should have been defined as measurable performance goals, e.g. “Individuals will be able to produce error free invoices within defined timelines”, “Individuals will be able to produce defect free XYZ model  components at a rate of NN per hour”. 

Well thought out, measurable goals ensure that the training will have a positive impact upon the problem.


Designing training is like building a sandwich: the top slice of bread is the defined training objectives, the bottom is the tools which are used to assess whether those who have been trained can carry out the defined training objectives.

In between is what will be used to bring about the required changes in behavior – can be contact training, group case studies, demonstrations, video clips, interviews or maybe even reference material to be studied. Given the richness of resources out there, it is strongly suggested that reference material should be but one of them. 

Depending on the number of objectives and the complexity of the subject, this content needs to be interspersed with exercises which are used to determine individual progress and to give encouragement and feedback.  

Who should be involved in this phase? Three types of people: those who established the objectives (and who are feeling the pain of the problem), those who will be doing the training and those who will develop the course. The first two types should come from within so that the training can be relevant to the situation. The third type may come from outside but this need not necessarily be the case. 

At this stage we need to identify our sandwich components: putting it all together comes next.


By the end of this phase we will have the following:
The training objectives: what problems is the training intended to solve? What must individuals who undergo this training be able to do on successful completion?
The training plan: who is going to do what, where are they going to do it and how long will each step in the process take so that training objectives are achieved?
The information resources which will be used to convey the knowledge required.
The assessment tools which will be used to determine progress and finally whether each individual has achieved the training objectives. 
The development of these products requires input from subject matter experts as well as those who are qualified to develop training interventions. 


Now is the time to get the bang from the buck. 
All the preparation carried out so far leads up to this stage: provided the previous steps have been followed meticulously then we have a training product fit for purpose.
Successful implementation of a training course revolves around the following factors:  
The professionalism of the arrangements – scheduling, venues internet access and other facilities as required. This is all to do with making participants not only comfortable but also eager
The enthusiasm and preparedness of course facilitators – self-evident, really
The way in which the course is administered and any problems dealt with


Conventional wisdom says that a smiley face form at the end is course evaluation. Not so if we are going realize a full return on our investment.

Consider this 1:

Level 1: Reaction
How individuals reacted to the training. 
How well the training was received: helps improvement of future training, including important elements to be added to the training.

Level 2: Learning
What individuals have learned. To what extent have the learning objectives been achieved as a result of the training? 

Level 3: Behaviour (application)
Extent to which individuals apply the concepts, processes and procedures which were taught. Are the newly acquired competencies being used in the occupational environment of the learner?

Level 4: Results
The results of the training in terms of business metrics, for example -increased production, improved quality, decreased costs, reduced accidents, increased sales, higher profits or enhanced return on investment.

1. Source:
If this is how training should be carried out, then two major questions arise (hopefully readers will have some of their own):

Q 1: What about all those courses to which we have been subjecting our people over all these years?