4 Quick Checks to Make Sure You Aren’t Wasting Money on Employee Training

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Here are 4 quick checks so you can be sure you aren’t blowing a whole bunch of your training budget (ideas courtesy of Cannon-Bowers, 2003):

Does your training actually present the relevant concepts or information your employees need to do their jobs better?

While this one may seem a tad obvious, you’d be surprised how much training gets done for the sake of training alone. Management believes training is necessary, however a lot of training vendors offer classes and skills which might not have much to do at all with what your employees do on a day to day basis. A good way to make sure appropriate information is presented is to conduct a training needs assessment. Once you have the results from that information gathering session, you can make sure whoever conducts your training is covering the right bases.

Does your training demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to be learned?

Having the right type of information in your training is important, but if your trainer doesn’t actually demonstrate how to use the knowledge and skills, you’re wasting your money. Your people need to see firsthand how to do these new things, not simply listen to a speech about the importance of them.

Let’s say you’ve got to conduct some plant-wide safety training. Would you rather have your employees sit in a room, watch a video, and discuss safety for a bit, or would you rather have an expert in your building show them exactly how they should be handling equipment the safest way?

A side note on those KSAs: Kay-Ess-Ayys! I-O psychology has a ton of acronyms which can be pretty alienating to others. This one stands for “knowledge, skills, and abilities”. I always had the damdest time trying to get my professors to explain to me what specifically distinguishes a “skill” from an “ability”. To this day, I still have not gotten a satisfactory response. I suppose they needed a third word to complete the acronym. Otherwise they’d be left with KS, and then you’re just in Kansas. Not too good for I-O psychologists. Abilities! Hooray.

Does your training provide your employees the opportunity to practice their new skills?

This one is straightforward… and awesome. I like this one a lot. Mainly, becuase a lot of high falutin’ trainers out there charge an arm and a leg for one of their representatives to come out on site and don’t even do this! For example:

“Oh, look! There’s Bob from Initech Training and Consulting!!! Whoa, cool tie he’s got on.”

<35 minutes pass as Bob continues to drone on about the proper way to handle overseas customer complaints>

“I like the way Bob sips his coffee. He looks very suave.”

<45 more minutes pass>

“Whoa, Bob really is a talker. I wonder which powerpoint template he’s using there?? Looks like it must be one of those newfangled Office 2007 ones? Cool.”

<20 more minutes go by>

“Annnnnd, that about wraps it up. In sum, don’t do what I just said all those bad things were when handling awkward overseas phone calls, mkay? Great. That’ll be $2500.”

So this fulfilled a training requirement? And maybe Bob had his trainees take a little quiz.. and then they filled out a happy sheet to tell you all about how they enjoyed Bob’s presentation, his tie, and they way he drank coffee. Did they learn anything? Do their managers care? If you want to make more money, you should. Otherwise, please stop reading this and send me some of your training budget cause it would go to better use over here. Really.┬áIt would. I don’t wear fancy ties.

The reason why the above example fell flat was because the employees didn’t get a demonstration, but also weren’t given the opportunity to practice what they learned. Ideally, practice happens in a safe work environment people can experiment doing new things without worrying if it affects their productivity. Changing what you do at work is… difficult. Some people are more naturally able to adapt, explore, and try new things. Others, are much more set in their ways. So, to get all your people to change and be curious, you must provide the time and space for them to practice new ways of doing things!

How are you going to provide feedback to trainees during and after practice?

This is so damn important. Without feedback, you might as well be flying a jet without any instruments through fog. People don’t know how they’re doing unless you provide a way for them to know where they’re screwing up, and where they are excelling. This is simple, however it is left out of so many training programs. While you could have the trainer come back to give regular feedback, a smarter approach would be to empower your employees to do it themselves and provide them incentives to learn even more new skills.

When was the last training YOU were at where you actually were not only presented with information you needed to do your job better (#1), but also had someone demonstrate to you how to improve what you do (#2), give you the time and space to practice it (#3), and then follow-through to tell you how well you are doing or where you could still improve?

Chew on that for a bit and consider these points next time you are planning to spend big bucks on training.

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