Planning and managing training the easy way: 5 key strategies

October 1, 2018 in Professional Development



Planning and managing training the easy way: 5 key strategies

Studies have long revealed that successful businesses – those with more profit, higher staff engagement, and long-term growth – are often leaders in managing training. They take staff training seriously and ensure managing training forms a part of their strategic planning. And it doesn’t matter if the business is 10 people or 10,000 people – successfully managing training is highly correlated to business success regardless of business size.

Yet many HR and training staff in a professional services firm can face multiple hurdles to implementing training plans. As a result, training becomes ‘something we will get to one day’ or a series of ad hoc events. There is great intention to deal with training, but the hurdles to getting started just seem too high to overcome. There are many articles about managing training hurdles with staff – but what about for the HR or training team and they hurdles they face!

In this article, we identify five of the most common hurdles to overcome in implementing training and suggest a range of possible solutions for HR and training staff to move forward with professional services training plans. In particular, we focus on the hurdles of…

  • Treating training as an ‘event’ and feeling overwhelmed by the decisions
  • Having too much risk placed on HR and training staff for training success
  • Failing to agree a specific and appropriate training budget
  • Putting too much work on HR and training staff to push training
  • Not having options for staff to self-enrol in training activities

1 – Adopt a mindset of continuous improvement

First and foremost – training does not need to be perfect. This is probably the #1 hurdle in the minds of many HR and training professionals.

Essentially, they may feel that staff training must be perfect before it can be rolled out. This concern often seems to occur when they feel that training can ‘only be run once’. For example, if they run sales training this year, that somehow precludes it from being run again next year. It might be 4-5 years before they feel comfortable running ‘another sales training event’ again. Or perhaps they feel that unless the training is perfect, then it is unlikely to work. Or they may worry about the risks of failed training and how that will reflect on them (see point 2 below).

These issues stem from a difference in how we view training at work compared to how we learning elsewhere. Outside of work, we readily adopt an approach to learning which is continuous. We take tennis lessons every fortnight for a year, or we play golf every week and slowly refine our strokes. We read about hobbies weekly and test out new ideas and skills on a regular basis. We train in martial arts for years, taking weekly lessons to reach higher belts. We anticipate incremental improvements, including regular failures, over an extended time period.

Then we get to work and we expect a single training intervention to immediately fix everything. We don’t have sales training every 3-4 weeks for two years, slowly covering a range of issues on a deep basis and with time for implementation. Instead, we have a two-day sales training workshop which allows for no reflection, adjustment, failure or implementation and is expected to deliver results.

Training does not need to be perfect

In fact, great learners – motivated staff who want to improve – will learn something from just about any training, even the bad training. Self-reflection is an amazing teacher, and bad training is full of opportunity for self-reflection!

Training at work should be continuous. A culture of continuous learning dramatically reduces the initial hurdles to managing training and eliminates worries of perfection. This can be achieved by…

  • Setting a corporate value of continuous improvement. A culture which accepts that risk taking, mistakes and failures are part of the process of learning
  • Setting training KPIs of ‘less but more frequent’ training. For example, requiring CPD of five hours per month, rather than 30 hours per six months, to avoid ‘binge training’ at the end of the six month period
  • Conducting smaller and more frequent training events. Indeed, avoiding ‘event’ style training like full day (or longer) workshops and using a better blend of more efficient training methods like online and virtual learning. This is where a platform like Tribal Habits, which focuses on 15-60 minute learning activities, can be efficient and powerful. Smaller events are less work to organise and have less downside risk
  • Staggering large groups so that training can be refined from feedback from each group before it is rolled out to the next group. And related to this, minimising the use of external training content, which is often generic and fixed, and often cannot be changed based on participant feedback. This is another area where Tribal Habits excels, as it allows you to utilise internal knowledge which you can readily change and update as required

2 – Share the ownership of training among management

Another common hurdle to managing training occurs when training is being organised by the HR or training department, and not by the end users. The training department may feel that they are ‘at risk’ if the training ‘doesn’t work’. They worry they may be criticised by managers or employees elsewhere in the firm if the training doesn’t measure up…and often against success measurements which aren’t defined or agreed.

These worries can place a lot of risk in the minds of HR and training professionals. As a result, the decision to undertake training becomes a big one, with significant research, deliberation, proposals, reviews, planning and so on. This isn’t to say that training shouldn’t be planned and researched. But when the risk is asymmetric (towards HR and training) rather than shared equally among all stakeholders, the planning process becomes bogged down.

In many professional services firms, the real problem here stems from a disassociation of training from the rest of the business. Partners and team leaders feel no responsibility for training and typically have no KPIs or stake in training. Training is an ‘expense’ which is managed somewhere else and simply happens to them and their team.

Sharing training responsibility lowers risks for everyone

If training was a shared responsibility among all management, the risks for individual stakeholders are lowered. Managing training becomes easier and there is more confidence in making training decisions. This can be achieved by…

  • Ensuring general management culture includes the training and coaching of staff. This may involve providing training to managers in an understanding of adult-learning and coaching techniques
  • Setting management KPIs around staff training. For example, all staff are compliant with required CPD or minimum staff training hours are completed
  • Ensuring managers are notified about the outcomes and results of their employees as training is completed. For example, Tribal Habits can notify managers when staff start or complete online topics, including automated copies of staff results
  • Utilising staff 360 reviews of managers to measure staff satisfaction with their manager’s coaching and training support
  • Asking managers to set the learning and business outcomes for their staff’s training so that they have ownership in the achievement of those outcomes
  • Asking managers how they will measure change and improvements in staff outcomes from training so that they have ownership in measuring the achievement of outcomes. For example, Tribal Habits can include on-the-job activities which require staff to implement new skills or demonstrate new behaviours. These activities can automatically include manager notifications to encourage management oversight and accountability

3 – Agree an appropriate training budget

Another hurdle to overcome when managing training is that lack of a training budget (or an undefined training budget). When a training budget is uncertain, it becomes very hard to make training decisions. Once your training budget is certain, you are more likely to feel empowered to use it – without worrying about seeking approval for every training spend.

This solution here is to two-fold.

First, training must be a defined line item in the business budget. It must be clear who has responsibility for that budget and the decisions to utilise it. Lumping training in with other items like recruitment, staff entertainment or general expenses leaves training undefined. Interestingly, once there is a defined training budget, it often attracts the involvement of general management – they come seeking approvals for training for their staff now they know a training budget exists. So this is another way to engage more stakeholders in managing training.

Second, the training budget must be realistic. When the training budget is too low (it is rarely too high!), that can actually create a hurdle to training. Making decisions to spend a small budget can create further decision paralysis. Small training budgets can, therefore, be worse than no training budget at all. Determining a realistic training budget is outside the scope of this article, but there are general training budget benchmarks you can work with as a starting point when managing training.

4 – Automate a personal training plan for all staff

The above hurdles – treating training as a big event, not sharing training risk among all stakeholders and not having a defined (and appropriate) training budget – are what typically make managing training harder. Once those hurdles are removed, the next two hurdles are focused on training implementation.

Let’s face it – managing training requires work. Busy HR professionals are already struggling with many tasks. So even when the initial hurdles to managing training are removed, there are still implementation hurdles to deal with. The solution is to offload some of the training implementation to others.

Before any training can occur, there needs to be some sort of training plan. Ideally, this is constructed at a business level through a (top-down) training needs analysis. But that is extra work for the HR or training team…and against the spirit of this article!

An alternative (bottom-up) approach is the use of personal training plans. This is where employees work with their managers to define an individual training plan. From that, employees and managers can be more proactive in suggesting or requesting training. The HR and training team can then be more reactive to these requests, rather than needing to be the ones constantly driving employees and managers to complete training.

The key here is to automate the personal training plan process. This can be achieved by…

  • Using a standard template for personal training plans. There are many examples of personal training plans on the internet or you can easily create one in a survey tool. Tribal Habits has a built-in personal training plan topic for use by all customers on paid plans too.
  • Ensuring that the personal training plan process in online and with notifications. Ideally, your survey tool should be available for every employee via a link and include an automated email notification to both the employee and their manager upon completion. Most survey tools do this. Tribal Habits’ personal training plan topic automates this process but goes one step further by including deadlines and reminders to complete the plan (to both employees and managers).
  • Setting a KPI for managers to finalise their employee training plans by a given date. Once an employee has completed the training plan survey, they should meet with their manager to review and finalise it. This 1:1 discussion is critical – it helps deal with many of the hurdles above by making managers a stakeholder in training success.

All of this can be readily automated with a good knowledge sharing or staff learning platform with little or no work by HR or training teams. The result is that the entire firm starts to take responsibility for managing training.

5 – Create a self-service training library

Which leads to a final recommendation – have as much self-service training as possible. Once employees have agreed their personal training plans with management, they should take responsibility for completing those plans (indeed, completion of employee training plans should be a KPI for managers). Giving staff access to a self-service library of training can allow them to continue to take personal responsibility for managing training without creating a burden for HR or training managers.

With modern learning platforms, this can be readily achieved by…

  • Having a library of high-quality online learning available for self-enrollment. A good staff learning portal will offer this and also allow for automated due dates, reminders and manager notifications. Tribal Habits offers all of that through our Marketplace topics for example.
  • Ideally, having self-enrollment rules and search capabilities which help staff filter appropriate learning options. Again, Tribal Habits offers powerful enrolment and notification engines to help automate this process.
  • Ideally, having a library of recorded webinars with internal (and external) experts from previous learning sessions. Once again, Tribal Habits can easily host video content for streaming back to staff in the future.

On that last point, it can be very positive for the firm to have a schedule of future learning events. This can be easily done via internal subject matter experts providing lunch-and-learn or webinar events through-out the year. External presenters can also form part of a schedule of events.

By having a schedule of events, staff can book into events well in advance and more easily accommodate that learning into their schedule rather than having training suddenly interrupt their work in progress. It encourages staff to be proactive in managing training of their own. By recording those events (very easy for webinars) you are then also creating more content for your self-enrolment library.

For HR and training professionals, spending a few weeks mapping out a schedule of learning events and assigning them to internal experts, can be very productive. It can then reduce your workload for the next 6-12 months as employees simply join into the schedule.

Feeling confident about getting started

Once training is embedded in the culture of a firm, it becomes self-sufficient. Staff and managers start to take ownership of managing training, rather than waiting for it to ‘happen to them’. It often just requires the initial momentum to get started.

In this article, we have discussed a variety of techniques to overcome the roadblocks and remove the hurdles so you can create that initial momentum. And if you want to make it even easier, then contact us at Tribal Habits and we’ll show you how to automate large parts of this process, including the creation of training content itself!