Jobs and WorkplaceCompanies and CorporationsProductivityDon HutsonIBM

With fall comes thoughts of back to school but the learning process does not end with graduation from an accredited institution. We are all life-time learners through various means of education on the job, what we read, and formalized training opportunities.The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) estimates that U.S. organizations spent $134.39 billion on employee learning and development in 2007.

During the month of October we plan to look at training your team and how effective training of individuals and teams can enhance the productivity of your organization and create a greater degree of Competence, Capacity and Confidence in your workforce.

Point #1 - INCREASE COMPETENCE It takes more than "add water and stir" to have a highly competent team member. Highly competent employees are created with a substantial investment of resources - the big three are time, money and energy.

When it comes to formalized training our friend Don Hutson says "training is like a 'bath' - it might not last long but it's a good idea to take one once in awhile." Training however may be used as a "behavioral band-aid" when it happens in a vacuum and if too generic, the link to meaningful individual behavioral modification may be less than effective.

In order for formalized training to increase competence, several things need to occur. •Training needs should be evaluated at the Individual, Team and Company level. It should be tied to the organization's Strategic Plan & Goals (at each level) and aligned with the organization's Values, Vision and Mission.•Coaching should be used in concert with training to identify training needs and to ensure the long term effectiveness of the training experience or investment, by providing accountability, dialogue, feedback and results measurement.•Formalized training must always be accompanied by on-the-job experience with appropriate oversight by individuals already skilled in the role.

Point #2 - EXPAND CAPACITYIn today's economy companies are seeking to expand their capacity while reducing their workforce. While technological advances provide a measure of increased capacity, real return on investment lies in the development of your people.

Leaders and managers will first need to differential between the 3 areas of training needs. •Is it a TECHNICAL training need, related to the industry or skill set?•Is it a BUSINESS training need, related to the business of running the business?•Is it a PROFESSIONAL or PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT training need related to leadership and management, supervisory, sales, communication, or customer service?

Regardless of the type of training, good leaders and managers focus on expanding an individual's capacity in increments. By "layering the learning" - adding concept upon concept over time, individuals grow and are stretched in their ability to expand their role and take on new assignments.

In addition to "layering the learning" as they train their PEOPLE, leaders and managers need to make certain the PROCESSES are clearly defined and communicated, leading to greater levels of PRODUCTIVITY and a more PROFITABLE rewarding environment.

Point #3 - BUILD CONFIDENCETraining builds confidence when done in concert with coaching. Identifying needs will ensure the long term effectiveness of the training experience or investment, by providing accountability, dialogue, feedback and results measurements.

The monthly 1:1 coaching meeting between an employee and his or her immediate supervisor provides an ideal time to review the value of a training opportunity while it is still fresh in their mind. Reviewing what was learned and how the employee plans to implement the information builds confidence and increases the value of the training experience. This is also an excellent time to cheer on progress and evaluate extended training opportunities.

Formal training will be most effective when viewed in concert with the daily opportunities for informal training through relationships and on the job training. While training will most often happen through pro-active positive interaction, you can also capitalize on what can be learned from failures, setbacks and mistakes. Thomas J. Watson, American Entrepreneur and founder of IBM was once asked if he was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. "No", he replied, "I just spent $600,000. training him. Why would I want somebody to hire his experience?" Allowing people to "fail forward" and experiment in an environment of encouragement adds greatly to the confidence factor.

Training, both formal and informal, is an essential tool that enables people to develop new skills and establish new horizons of what they can achieve and where their organization can go. Dollars spent on training, coupled with follow through and coaching, will produce a high return on investment and lay the groundwork for behavioral change as you orient, inform and educate individuals and teams within your organization.

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