What makes for a quality training program? It's not the talent or experience of the trainer, it's not the comprehensiveness of the training, nor even the innate talent of the people participating in the training. The key to having a quality training program of any kind is the desire within everyone concerned that the training be a success.
It's really that simple. Unfortunately, "simple" can be rare.
Getting everyone committed to successful, quality training can be like herding cats. This is especially true if the organization's mission, vision, and goals are not aligned and well-known, and/or if people don't see how a training program helps support those goals.
Did you know that only seven percent of employees understand how their jobs contribute to the bigger picture of their organization? That's a horrific indictment of our lack of communication skills. I believe those survey results, yet time and again when I talk with senior managers, the overwhelming majority of them tell me their teams know the company's direction.
Isn't that sort of like Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average?
I'm not pointing fingers, but because senior managers tend to believe they're communicating better than they are, I'm making a strong suggestion to double up your efforts. Increase the time you spend talking about your vision, mission, and goals, and how everyone's work factors into that big picture. I'm not saying have more company meetings where these things are preached from a pulpit. I'm saying include these topics in your informal conversations.
These factors are fundamental to strategic alignment, and if they're missing or weak, people have a tough time seeing how their work contributes. That keeps them from getting engaged at a passionate level. And, it means any training effort you fund won't have the impact you want, no matter how good everything else is.
Speaking of the training effort, let's consider what else contributes to good training.
A quality facilitator
In our multi-media lives, a trainer needs more than just speaking skills. A trainer should have expert knowledge, be confident, be able to inspire, comfort, entertain, counsel, and even push back. A quality trainer makes people think. No longer can a trainer rest solely on his or her technical know-how.
Way too often training is the "go to" solution for performance problems when the root causes of the problems will not be solved with training. So first, if you're conducting training to resolve a performance problem, make sure it's an appropriate solution for the problem.
A quality curriculum
Training should be designed and developed after asking several key questions: What are the expected results of the training? What behaviors are needed to achieve those results? What knowledge, skills, and attitudes are needed to effect the desired behaviors? From there, dozens of questions should be asked and learning objectives should be solidified. Then training can be developed into an engaging curriculum that enables learners to internalize, or "own," their learning.
An apt training location
Each training scenario is different. Some training requires one-on-one, on-the-job efforts. Other training requires lectures in large auditoriums. But most training falls somewhere in between those two. The best location for your training will be the most cost-effective location in which students can learn what is needed, without interruption.
People know why they're in training
I can't believe the number of times I arrive at a location to conduct training only to discover people in the audience who have not been told what the training is about or how it applies to them. This ties directly back to the main topic for this column: The key to having a quality training program is a desire within everyone concerned that the training be a success. For the record:
Everyone includes the entire executive / senior management team. Assuming the vision, mission, and goals are clear and training has been selected to support those efforts, the executive team must support training not only with their lips but also with their calendars. Training is a "production capability" effort, and therefore part of the effort to achieve vision, mission, and goals.
Everyone includes the support staff. They must be shown the reasons for training and how it will help the organization reach its vision, mission, and goals.
Everyone includes middle managers and supervisors. They must also be shown the reason for the training and be a support to the people selected to attend.
Everyone also includes the front line employees. They must also be shown how the training will help the organization meet its vision, mission, and goals. All of this is part of being strategically aligned. And yes, for training to be truly effective in your organization, all of the above is necessary.