HR Roundtable: Leveraging Training For Company Success

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Jun 18, 2015

The April HR Roundtable in Cincinnati discussed an area of HR that is unfortunately often relegated to the sidelines in organizations even though it’s an essential facet of company’s being successful – training.

Training is usually the first area to get cut when organizations are facing tough economic circumstances and yet everyone bemoans that our employees aren’t trained “enough” now to do their jobs well. So, it was intriguing to hear people passionately discuss this.

They started with the following three questions:

  1. Why is it hard for training to be consistent today?
  2. What methods should be used to train people?
  3. How can we make training integrated in our companies and not forgotten?

The room was abuzz with the small group discussion as they tackled these questions. It was tough to have folks break out to share their ideas, but when we did, it was wonderful!

Why is it hard for training to be consistent today?

  • Our pockets aren’t deep enough — This may be a fact, but it’s a poor stance for a company to take. It’s a classic “if/then” approach. If we have enough money, then we’ll train. Companies need to realize that if this is how they position training, you will NEVER have enough money. It’s an archaic approach and needs to be addressed.
  • We don’t have enough time — Again, not true. This is another example of how a company chooses to position itself. The reality isn’t that you don’t have enough time, it’s that you don’t allocate the time needed for training. Those are two different things. The challenge is – which position are you going to choose?
  • Different people have different needs and different learning styles — This isn’t a problem, it’s a fact. It is staggering to hear HR people struggle with the fact that people are different. We continue to want to force a “one size fits all” approach to everything we do in organizations. This may be cost effective, but is it working? Why not look at the strength of the differences between people and develop training that leverages their strengths instead of focusing on the challenge of people being different?
  • We expect people to come into our company, and their role, already equipped — This is true. There is a new norm in companies that wants people to be a completely functioning package when they arrive. This is difficult because they are surely talented when they arrive, but they don’t know how YOUR company does what it does. That has to be taught regardless of how skilled someone is.
  • We try to make training mandatory — Please note that people understand that there is certain training that has to occur in organizations due to Federal and State regulations. People get that and know it is mandatory. What this was addressing was when companies force training to occur in general. They take the position of forcing employees to participate in mandated programs. This is rarely effective because the employees aren’t engaged and excited to be in training. They feel they’re being dragged into it against their will.
  • Lack of interest — It’s sad, but we don’t really want to train people. When departments and companies look at training from a negative vantage point to begin with, it’s doomed. What we forget is that if the company shows a lack of interest, employees will as well. This breeds contempt and a general malaise around training. It’s time we all stepped back to see how we view this critical facet of our organizations !!

What methods should be used to train people?

  • Avoid the flavor of the month approach — I know this isn’t a positive idea for a method, but it is a good warning to not fall into the trap most HR people fall into. We constantly chase the next best thing even though it may not be the most effective thing for our particular organization. If you are implementing a new trend, make sure it will be something that sticks and is sustainable. Quit chasing the wind !!
  • Incorporate various learning approaches — The earlier section noted that people are different and they also learn differently. When you’re developing your training, see how the material can be given to people and check to see if it’s being retained. If something is missing the mark, see how the employee learns best and meet them where they are!
  • Facts tell/stories sell — This was a fantastic answer from the small groups. Is your training laced with mountains of facts and data? I’m sure they’re all valuable and needed, but they won’t be remembered. People learn from stories and can relate to them much easier than layers and layers of facts. Weave the great data you want to train people with in stories where they can see themselves. You’ll be much more successful.
  • Only let “trainers” train — This isn’t meant for you to add an entire training department. It is meant to have you evaluate who is doing your training. Is it someone who is “available” or someone who is capable.? You need to see who’s good at both developing and delivering training. This may be different people. There needs to be an audience focus and not a focus on the material. Training is meant to train people. That may sound simplistic, but it’s often overlooked.

How can we make training integrated in our companies?

  • Understand the goal — What results do you want from training? This isn’t ROI (return on investment). This is having an understanding of the outcomes you’d like to see reached by offering training. You need to establish benchmarks and measurements so you can see if you reached, missed or exceeded your expectations of the results you hoped to achieve.
  • Be a continuum and not a start/stop shop — Try making training something that evolves versus occurs. When companies start something and then have a hard stop date, they see limited results. There may be peaks of movement, but they won’t last. Let things ebb and flow. This is against the nature of most organizations, but it works.
  • Determine the best setting — You may need a classroom one time and a one-on-one session another time. Take the time to see how the training you’re presenting will be used once it’s given and then determine what type of environment would be most effective. This requires some agility, but you’ll see the efforts pay off.
  • Context, context, context — The main component that is missing in the majority of training is context. We miss the “why” and it sinks the program. Don’t just do training because you’re supposed to. Conduct training because it matters. In order for it to matter, you need to give employees the reason why the training is happening and what you hope will be the results. Include them on the why and you’ll see more tangible movement and success. Show people how the training applies to them and what they contribute to the organization.
  • Establish the “Takeaway Buffet” — This answer may have been the best one in the 15 years I’ve run the HR Roundtable! Training needs to have takeaways that people can utilize in their jobs. If your programs don’t have these, then it will not be effective. Make note that people are also responsible for takeaways as attendees. You can’t force them to do it, but you can provide the accessibility to material that will make their jobs better and well-rounded.
  • Have fun! — Training is usually a break from the regular day-to-day role that people have. Make it enjoyable !! Play music, go offsite, have creative activities that aren’t the norm. You have an incredibly large palette to work with. Don’t make training narrow, make it an experience!

The April HR Roundtable attendees didn’t think training could be such a dynamic topic to discuss. It was another high energy forum and I hope you can make future Roundtables so you can share in this “training” experience as well!

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