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HUMAN RESOURCES

Maximizing Performance: Is enjoyment best training criteria?

In our contacts with clients concerning human resource issues, we are often asked to design training programmes to solve operational problems. Often, these training requests are made because a) Productivity or revenue goals are not being achieved, b) Staff have requested specific skill or knowledge development, c) Regional headquarters has requested training courses for all offices
So why then do the subsequent steps taken by the firm to procure and deliver a programme rarely achieve an effective training result? In many cases, at the conclusion of the course it is not clear whether the effort has been successful for increasing production or improving skills.


Mari Novak

In our contacts with clients concerning human resource issues, we are often asked to design training programmes to solve operational problems. Often, these training requests are made because a) Productivity or revenue goals are not being achieved, b) Staff have requested specific skill or knowledge development, c) Regional headquarters has requested training courses for all offices

So why then do the subsequent steps taken by the firm to procure and deliver a programme rarely achieve an effective training result? In many cases, at the conclusion of the course it is not clear whether the effort has been successful for increasing production or improving skills.

Generally, most of the difficulties come from a lack of planning. There is often a poor specification of outcomes prior to selecting a training provider - either in-house or external. In our own experience in central Europe, when we are asked to prepare a proposal for a training course, the request is often in quite general terms. Rarely is there any description of the training objectives - or expected outcomes - according to some measurable criteria of success.

Unfortunately, the "target" is often based on a gut feeling or previous experiences and on vague ideas or even top management edicts to "do some training and fix these people". The client often states that this should be the job of the training provider, to develop the objectives along with a detailed proposal description. The client feels that if they can collect several proposals, at least one should "hit the target"..

Of course, without a deep look into the company, the trainer is blind to real needs. In many cases, where an original assessment has not been made, the training provider will suggest those training approaches that have proven to be most popular or easily provided to previous customers. It is quite possible that none of the responses will address key behavioral issues - the critical item that addresses the problem simply did not make the "menu" of alternatives.

When you stop and consider the process of "ordering training", the actual performance deficiencies - the skill and knowledge needed and to which the training responds - are rarely specified in detail, or very rarely include final outcomes fully written into the purchase orders.


Steven Kelly

Overworked managers (often supported quietly by training providers who prefer avoiding strict evaluation) can generally rationalise taking this type of "shotgun" approach. A detailed needs analysis can be expensive, and some think any improvement in any area will justify the cost of the effort.

Without a doubt, the key to successful training results is based on up-front work, before developing a topic list or request for a proposal. An analysis must be completed to determine performance gaps. What must staff do differently after training?

These differences, in the form of increased skills or knowledge, can then be specified in requests for training proposals as actual measurable objectives. It is then possible to collect different proposals and select one based on the best approach to achieving the performance target.

Mari Novak and Steven Kelly are partners at KNO Slovensko. Their column appears monthly. Send comments or questions to kno@kno.sk.

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