Assessing Training Needs, Setting Expectations, Measuring Outcomes
By Valerie S. Nosek
As a comprehensive Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with an extensive training catalog, it’s not unusual to receive a number of calls every week from various organizations requesting training for employees, managers/supervisors and yes, even executive leadership. Providing effective employee education is an important part of what we do – that’s why we ask probing questions about the instigating need, specific objectives, participants to be included, work culture/environment and more, when approaching a training engagement. These initial questions usually lead to a revealing conversation that allows us to match training with needs and secure the best suited subject matter expert to facilitate the program.
It would be very easy to simply say, “Oh yes, we can provide ‘X’ training,” schedule the workshop and be done with it. But, as Benjamin McCall said in his recent post, “How to be an HR Ninja: Uncover Training Needs,” providing effective educational programs in the workplace is so much more than just providing “the training.”
Like McCall, we firmly believe that “training, and the learning that takes place, should engage all members of the organization to increase performance while aligning learning objectives to the overall goals of the business.”
Providing training without a formally expressed expectation of retention or application of what was learned is wasteful of company resources, yet, too often this is how training programs are presented. Effective employee educational programs should lead to sustainable change or improvement of a skill set, on the part of the individual(s) involved.
Furthermore, it is critical to review and assess that the training chosen matches the philosophy of the organization. For example, a client may say they want their middle management staff to be more assertive in decision-making, but then upper management or executive leadership micro-manages when it comes down to actually allowing middle managers to make independent decisions. Training that does not match the culture of the organization not only wastes time and money, but can also result in frustration and lowered morale for employees who were engaged in the training and are then blocked from applying what they’ve learned.
McCall also makes a great point in saying that “Just because people WANT training doesn’t mean they need it and just because they NEED training doesn’t mean they want it.” And it is this statement that is at the center of why any training provider committed to offering effective educational programs should ask those probing questions prior to scheduling training.
It’s very common to receive a request for one type of training, only to discover after an exploratory discussion that the training need is something different than originally thought. Let’s take the hypothetical case of the manager whose team seems to be experiencing an increased amount of conflict and is not acting as a cohesive unit:
We receive a call from the human resource contact at Company XYZ asking for a teambuilding session for one of their divisions. The HR professional says the division’s manager reported that suddenly, members of the group are not getting along and it’s impacting productivity. They need to learn how to work better as a team. We ask for a phone consultation with the manager and anyone else who should be included in determining what outcome is desired from the training.
During a conversation with the manager and his assistant manager, we find the company has recently reorganized some positions and this division was affected. While the team members are the same, their responsibilities have shifted. We also find out that before the changes, the group functioned well and without conflict. The managers acknowledge some employees are having difficulty adjusting to their new roles, but feel they are all valuable and capable of the performance expected.
After this discussion, it becomes apparent the problem is not that the group doesn’t know how to function as a team or that there are members of the group creating conflict. Instead, the employees within the division are having difficulty adjusting to the changes that have taken place.
In a best case scenario, a teambuilding workshop may have reinforced skills this group already knew, but still would not have been the best use of training funds. On a less positive note, bringing teambuilding training to a group who knew they were able to work well together before reorganization could have potentially caused more problems, such as lowered morale or hostility, as employees might feel the blame for lost productivity was misplaced: “We didn’t have any problems until the ‘bigwigs’ decided to do it this way instead of how we were doing it before. Now they’re blaming us that it’s not working when it was their idea.”
A program on change management was more applicable to the division’s needs. Employees were resistant to the changes that had taken place and just wanted things to “go back to the way they were before.” However, a change management session allowed employees to recognize the stages of change, determine where they were in terms of acknowledging and accepting change individually, and learn how to move forward so that the group could return to the exceptional levels of performance expected of them.
Ease@Work can help you address your company’s training, coaching and organizational development needs. Our programs are thoughtfully tailored to your organization, using a variety of methods, some of which might include phone or in-person consultation, needs assessments or use of focus groups. Skills retention can be assessed through pre- and post-testing, assessing application of training 30-, 60-, or even 90-days out.