We often talk about “training” and “development” as two separate things, when really they go hand in hand. Here are three ways to combine training and development in the same program.
A quick review: Training usually refers to instruction that’s focused on specific skills–how to use a certain software program, how to document an incident of some kind–while development tends to focus on helping people grow into different positions and develop skills over time.
Those smart people we all want to hire? Turns out they like to keep learning and growing–and they want to work for organizations that let them do just that. It’s smart management to make sure your people continue to develop the skills they need to stay current in their positions, but it’s also a good practice to make sure that training happens within the context of a development plan. Here are three concrete steps for doing just that.
Connect short-term needs to long-term growth
Sometimes, your training needs are dictated by orders from above–or even from outside your organization, as with things like trainings focused on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s obviously good to pay attention to those compliance-driven trainings, for all kinds of reasons, but make sure you’re also listening to people from all levels of your organization, including the trainees themselves.
When you ask about these needs, ask people how these skills connect to their longer-term professional goals and to their role within the organization.
When possible, let your employees tell you what they need in terms of training: new software? microlearning? management training or conflict resolution? Make the conversation about more than just skills: ask people how they see those skills-based trainings fitting in with how they see their roles and how they want to develop professionally. Maybe Jane wants to learn a new program because she’s got an idea about how to make the team more productive or maybe Bob’s asking about Spanish classes because his team is seeing a changing demographic among customers.
By connecting training needs to long-term growth, you’ll have more information about what your trainees need in the short term and get a better idea about how those issues might affect the organization in the long run. You improve your training courses, make your employees happier and more productive, and get additional insight into your organization and its clients.
Include role play scenarios in compliance trainings
Often, skills training involves the here and now: can this person respond to a chemical spill? can this team track inventory without crashing the system? can my deckhands put on their cold-water survival gear before they respond to the crisis at hand?
Because the skills involved are so immediate, we tend to care less about the why and care only about the end result. This means that a lot of compliance training, and other kinds of training to a lesser degree, involves things like multiple-choice answers or putting steps in the right order. That’s fine and can be a great way to confirm that basic, first level of understanding.
But here’s the thing: when your employees are actually applying those skills, they’re going to encounter gray areas. If their training has prepared them only to fill in blanks or give rote answers, they’re not going to be effective, which wastes training dollars and employee time.
One way around this is to build in role playing and scenarios into skills training. Give trainees the chance to practice their responses before they need to use these skills in a real life crisis. Ask open-ended questions that encourage trainees to connect these skills to their work roles. Have trainees work together to simulate the kind of teamwork they’d need to show in an actual work situation.
These kinds of activities can be included in either hybrid or online training formats. When you’re setting up the training course, include open-ended responses to gauge a trainee’s ability to apply skills, along with right/wrong responses to understand a trainee’s basic knowledge. Teams use technology to collaborate in real life, so have them use the online training software to collaborate in ways that mimic that process.
Create review mechanisms
Finally, don’t just leave this stuff to chance. If you’ve done the work of having these conversations and designing good trainings, make sure there’s some kind of formal recognition for the organizational value that a good training and development program provides.
It can be as simple as making sure that managers and employees mention training and development during performance reviews. You can create follow-up surveys for trainees and the people they interact with. Other organizations have more complex processes that link training and HR. Google famously tracks all kinds of employee data and uses it to make smart decisions. Recognize too that sometimes gains happen over time and that the immediate value might be different than the long-term value the program offers the organization.
The point isn’t to be overly bureaucratic with tracking data and pestering people with follow-up surveys to the follow-up survey, but you do need to know what’s working–or not–and why. Then use that information to revise offerings and improve.
I'm endlessly fascinated by how people learn, and I'm happiest when I'm in the process of learning something new myself.
When I'm not working on marketing for Avizr, I can be found teaching Spanish, working with my student teachers, hanging out with my dogs, and exploring the many trails around Bellingham.