Smart Business (12/01/12)
In an interview with Smart Business Jeremy Wilcomb, operations manager of Houston, Texas’s The Daniel Group, describes the value of employee training and development programs. Asked what holds companies back from implementing training programs, Wilcomb notes that the main impediment is determining the return on investment of training. While the costs of training programs are very real and easy to account for, it can be more difficult to precisely quantify the gains in competence, productivity, and retention that training and development can offer. The question of what sort of training and how much of it to invest is quiet important, and Wilcomb suggests companies begin with industry-specific training for their workers. While it can be difficult to determine how much training is enough or too much, Wilcomb suggests aspiring to conducting some kind of training on a quarterly training, using whichever format, web-based, in person, etc., best fits the needs to employees. Wilcomb says that setting goals and parameters ahead of time and then soliciting employee feedback after the fact can help companies judge the success of their training programs. Asked what to avoid, Wilcomb says that a common mistake made by companies is providing too much or too little training content and suggests that creating training plans with an overview and table of contents can help.
Winnipeg Free Press (Canada) (11/24/12) Bowes, Barbara
One’s reputation in the workplace can limit corporate success, and likewise a company’s reputation can affect the bottom line, writes Barbara J. Bowes, president of Legacy Bowes Group and vice-president of Waterhouse Executive Search. For individuals, being known as a procrastinator, for example, can prevent a person from rising into decision-making roles, while having a negative attitude or being rude to colleagues can make enemies who will not support any efforts to take on more responsibility. Organizations also have routines that are essentially unconscious habits that create organizational culture, and often those habits can be obstacles to success. They tend to reflect beliefs and behaviors of previous leaders or corporate founders, and strong new leadership is required to make necessary changes. It is much more difficult to change an entire organization than an individual, but the steps are essentially the same–the organization must first be taken through a systemic review of current practices and areas for change must be identified. This includes a review of organizational dynamics, employee tenures, skills, attitudes and employees’ ability and desire to change. Once the plan for change has been established, leaders then work with stakeholders to communicate the vision and inspire them to take part. They must be shown how they can benefit the organization, and a strong program of training and education may be needed to upgrade skills. There will be growing pains and missteps, but new behaviors need to be part of every-day processes with reward systems to keep momentum going.
Successful Meetings (10/12) Alderton, Matt
Billions of dollars are spent every year by companies on training their employees, but Inc.com columnist Geoffrey James says that unless companies make sure to follow a number of basic principles, then they stand a good chance of wasting their training budgets. For James, the most basic of these principles is that training needs to be about teaching “skills” not “traits.” James for instance uses the example of an introverted field engineer being trained to go out on customer calls. Training designed to make this engineer more “outgoing” or “personable”, is likely to be much less effective than training that focuses on teaching very specific skills, such as active listening and use of understandable terminology. Once the focus is on teaching concrete skills, James says the next step is determining what specific skills specific workers need to learn, rather than taking a one-size-fits all approach that may waste the time of both the trainer and the worker by teaching unnecessary or redundant skills. Next, James says skills need to be reinforced so they become a habit, rather than slipping away shortly after training. Finally, to measure the effectiveness of training, James suggests the use of skill-based metrics, both as a way to measure the success of training and a way to reinforce the importance of the skills taught in that training.
Wall Street Journal (10/26/12) Silverman, Rachel Emma
U.S. companies spent approximately $156 billion on employee learning in 2011, according to the most recent data available from the American Society for Training and Development. But roughly 90 percent of new skills may be lost within a year if not reinforced by practical follow-ups or assessments, some research suggests. Eduardo Salas, a professor of organizational psychology at the University of Central Florida, says what happens before and after a training session is as crucial as the actual learning. He adds that very few organizations rely on the science of learning, training, and development. For instance, most assume that if an unskilled worker undergoes training, he or she will immediately be transformed into an improved, skilled worker.
But the reality is that training is more complex, Salas asserts. Most organizations also do not take the time to assess their training needs in order to identify who needs training and what kind it should be. Many organizations also do not sufficiently evaluate whether employees retain what they learn, or rely solely on technology. Training should comprise clear, precise learning goals, clear feedback, an assessment tool, and regular opportunities to practice and obtain feedback, says Salas. Furthermore, organizations need to be ready to receive the training and establish the conditions to implement the newly learned skills, which includes emphasizing the importance of the training and putting it into practice.
Australian Financial Review (09/26/12) Nickless, Rachel
Susan Peters is a vice-president at GE who oversees its leadership development worldwide. She says organizations should not completely stop using face-to-face training. “It’s tempting to go virtual because it’s less expensive by a lot, but learning from each other is as significant as learning from the content,” she says. Even when the global financial crisis hit, GE’s global training budget remained comparatively stable at approximately US$1 billion annually, Peters says.
GE recently hired a historian, a physicist, an entrepreneur in his 20s, and other external individuals to determine what leadership skills are needed in amid today’s globalization and financial instability. Additionally, 30 of the company’s leading executives visited roughly 100 different institutions to learn about leadership qualities, including the Chinese Communist Party school, the Boston Celtics basketball team, and the US Air Force Academy. The findings were incorporated into new ways of training, such as an increased focus on “intact teams,” where teams that work normally work together take part in week-long training sessions. This could include a general manager and the international team that reports to them, including sales, marketing, human resources and legal professionals, says Peters. GE also is encouraging the increased use of left and right brain thinking via creative workshops involving things like cooking, performing, or painting, she says. Managers who assess attendees before and after training say results have been positive, Peters says, adding that “after they do the creative workshop they learn to respect the skills or perspectives of people in the group.”