The value and wisdom of training

“What if we invest in training our staff – and they leave?”
“What if you don’t invest in training them – and they stay?”
When you recruited your people they may have had all the skills, knowledge, behaviours and attitude necessary to do the job – but perhaps over time the job has changed, the people they deal with have changed, expectations of your team have changed or perhaps just being able to do the job is no longer enough?

What do they really need?

It’s a simple process to review people’s development needs; sadly many managers only do so once a year, when Appraisal time comes around. I often hear people complain that they asked for training as part of the Appraisal process, but a year on and nothing has happened. Reviewing Appraisal forms for two FM service providers recently, I noticed how the majority of the development needs are identified by the line manager, but the actual training and coaching requests come from the employee.
More effective and more regular conversations with the people who work for you will capture any development needs early on, and give you and them the chance to do something about it. Formal training isn’t always the answer – sometimes one-to-one mentoring or coaching will have the best results, or even e-learning, depending on their learning style.
Effective conversations about performance must be specific and based on evidence – give examples of occasions where they have lacked a particular skill, for example. Ask them for their thoughts, what needs to happen for them to improve, and then, only then, give your thoughts on the solution. If it comes from them, they are more likely to take personal responsibility and action.

Making it stick

Whether it’s training, mentoring or coaching, you’ll need to make it stick. I believe people are more likely to retain new knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes if they are encouraged to use them immediately, and continue to use them.
Here are the keys to making it stick:

  • Motivation – an individual needs to be motivated to use new skills or behave in a different way – or they can fall back into their comfort zone and old ways. It helps if as their line manager you can identify whether their motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic. Extrinsic would mean for example they are seeking a promotion, and learning new skills will help them achieve this. Intrinsic can be harder to identify, but would include self-satisfaction or a sense of achievement. Once you know what their motivation is, you can tailor the training to suit, as well as what happens afterwards.
  • Relevance – ensure the training/coaching is relevant to either their current role, or a potential new role, and that it covers the right content at the right level.
  • Apply ASAP – you can help them apply their new learning immediately, even if it means allowing them to practise in a mock situation if they’re not likely to need to use the skills for a while.
  • Repetition – if you have young children you’ll understand why repetition works! The more we do something, the better we can become at doing it, until it becomes second nature. Of course, there’s a danger that we eventually become complacent, but a good line manager will spot this and stretch that comfort zone with more challenges!
  • Support & reinforce – feedback will allow the individual to know they are doing the right things right, however be sure to give specific feedback, with real examples. Reinforce the behaviour you want to see more of.

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

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