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An Effective Training Plan With a Winning Formula

Bob Little 

March 24, 2017

If you believe that people are a key asset then, whether you’re a training professional or not, you should want to see them develop their work-related knowledge and skills.

A private-sector group could grab a big competitive advantage if its people do this. Or a non-profit, whose employees develop and learn, might well improve its effectiveness and efficiency, and give stakeholders the value for money for which society strives.

Producing this L&D “nirvana” involves many things, including variables that are outside the L&D professional’s control, but a big part of this strategy is having an effective training plan. This should ensure that your organization is committed to, and focused on, its people-development priorities – so that L&D activities are relevant to the learners’ and group’s needs.

Four Ways to Effective Training

“There are four ways to ensure your training plan is robust,” says Richard Lowe, Director of training and digital learning solutions at Hewlett Rand. These are:

1. Review your strategy

What do leaders, managers and teams need to know, and be able to do, to improve performance to meet your organization’s vision and goals? What are your strategic priorities? In addressing these questions, it helps to consider training needs under these headings:

  • Individual: What trends are emerging from reviews/appraisals?
  • Department: In which areas must functional teams improve their performance?
  • Leadership: Where must leaders and managers sharpen their performance and skills?
  • Organization: Where do we need to up-skill? What core competencies must be improved?

2. Agree your priorities

Determine your business priorities where training will make a difference. For example:

  • Do bosses need to manage their teams more effectively?
  • Does the organization need to make more sales or improve client service?
  • Does the group need to close its exposure to new risks or legislative changes?
  • Are there new technologies and systems that must be implemented?

“Whatever your training priorities, focus on those areas that’ll make the biggest difference to growth, service or key risk,”  adds Lowe.

3. Identify internal and external training resources

Allocate internal or external resources against each training priority. Lowe says, “You must know what, how and who will be needed to deliver each aspect of your plan. This involves deciding who’s best equipped to meet each training priority, and what are the most effective delivery methods. Are there new ways of learning that will help you use knowledge and skills more consistently and efficiently?”

  • Internal resources: In-house trainers, experts, managers, or team members sharing their knowledge and experience with others can meet some training needs. Lowe says, “But don’t forget that internal trainers and experts need the requisite skills. Ensure you include train-the-trainer coaching and mentoring skills in your plan, where needed. Don’t forget your managers need ongoing training and coaching skills, too.”
  • External resources: Where your organization needs know-how, technologies, or capacity, to meet your priorities, look to experts, says Lowe. “External training specialists bring fresh perspectives, objective insight and new skills capabilities to your business.”

4. Begin with the end in mind 

A robust training plan must align to your strategy to enhance your people’s capabilities to meet your organizational goals. So, says Lowe, you should define the outcomes you expect and evaluate the resulting return on investment (ROI). The key questions include:

  • What training priorities must you deploy?
  • What are your goals?
  • How will you ensure training will be received positively and effectively?
  • What measurable difference will you be able to demonstrate?
  • How will you be able to show that new capabilities are embedded in your organization’s workforce?
  • What are the business impacts and outcomes that you expect?

A Clear Strategy

Tim Drewitt, a digital learning strategist and product innovator at training group Kallidus, says, “Having clarity of the strategy is key if the plan’s to be based on accurate assessment and interpretation of what’s needed. Not all organizations are strong on this – and there could be challenges if parts of the business have differing views.

“These might be some of the variables that’re outside of L&D’s control. This is when L&D’s stakeholder management skills become crucial. L&D should work with stakeholders to look at the ROI of different options. You should categorize priorities as ‘tactical’ or ‘strategic’ – and agree a blend of these, combining short-term goals and quick wins with longer-term objectives.

“L&D must work with the business to understand how their learners prefer to learn and what type of learning support they feel they need.”

Measuring Results

“To measure the results, ask stakeholders – at the start of the process – ‘If this plan’s a success and you walked among your people, what would you want to hear them saying and see them doing?’ If they struggle to answer, you’ve highlighted a need to drill deeper to define the knowledge, skill and attitude gaps that must be addressed to deliver tangible outcomes that are aligned to the agreed business strategy,” adds Drewitt.

“How close is L&D to the strategic decision-makers? In a worst-case scenario, is it hearing the strategy second-hand and, maybe, watered down? Are there both centralized and local-level sides to the plan? Might the wider organizational training plan conflict or compete with local plans – in terms of resources, by inadvertently sending out mixed messages, or demanding too much employee time commitment?

“L&D should take its steer from its senior-level contacts and use the latter’s individual stakeholder management channels to mediate when potential conflicts arise. It might also be worth stepping back to see how both central and local plans could leverage the same resources.”

The Closer the Better

Drewitt argues that the closer L&D gets to the business, the better. “The more we understand the factors that might impact a project, the more we can be prepared for them and include contingencies,” he says. “Models such as PESTEL should be used when discussing the strategic plan with stakeholders.

“Training plans should remain flexible, agile and be reviewed regularly. We shouldn’t be afraid to change them should any external variables indicate rethinking the current plan.”

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