Many managers have the opinion that training cures everything. If performance is an issue, retraining is in order. If a person has poor work habits, training is the prescribed treatment. If they are chronically late, take long breaks, or otherwise break workplace rules, training is the only answer. In short, training or retraining has become the one-size-fits-all remedy for every work-related issue.
However, from a staff point of view, this one-size-fits all approach to training may appear to be punishment, not self-improvement.The wrong approach or unrealistic expectations of training from either the employee or the manager can sabotage even the best training program.1
Expectations must be realistic on both sides; the manager should not expect a perfect staffer after training, and the trainee should not expect an immediate promotion or added responsibility after a bit of training. If either side is disappointed, the expectation was most likely not realistic. 2
As an example, training can provide basic information about a different culture, but will not make the attendee fluent in the foreign language. It is important that training says what it does and managers do not expect more than the training can provide. It is also important to understand that training is an ongoing process, not a once and done event.
According to a number of sources, the most recent movement in training revolves around practicality. “How will training affect my work group or my company?” rather than training for the sake of training. Training connects to the overall business strategy and individual performance.3 It should be designed to move staff forward by providing new skills, new processes, new procedures, and a better understanding of the organization. This fits well with what is known about adult learning and the need for it to be useful and applicable to the current situation.
So far, the discussion has focused on management expectations of training. Remember that expectations are a two way street. As the manager, you expect your staff to benefit from training so they are more likely to meet your performance expectations. As the trainee, you hope that learning what the manager expects will make you a more valuable employee.
It is important to define expectations in advance of training. Without them, staff will wonder why they are there and what will happen. They will be unable to physically or mentally prepare for the experience. In general, such things as timing, proper attire, training structure, breaks, and meals should be discussed. Subject matter or an agenda should be provided in advance. It is also important that attendees understand what will be required of them during the training; punctuality, participation, and a positive attitude. If there will be a test, let them understand what the purpose of testing is. At the end of the training, require something back from them. If a presentation or written summary is required, warn them in advance. It will focus their attention.
Some practical Dos and Don’ts:
DO keep training focused in the real world. Be clear how the training relates to the organization’s long and short term goals.
DO become actively involved in the training. Managers should attend training sessions to validate the importance to staff.4 The exception to this is when the presence of the manager will inhibit free discussion.
DO make training relevant to the trainees’ responsibilities or sphere of influence. Share in advance your vision of how training will improve a current situation or prepare for an upcoming event.
DO set reasonable objectives for each training attended, and share them in advance of the training.
DO share training with the rest of the group. Have attendees hold mini-seminars at the workplace to share what has been learned. This is also a good method of evaluating learning and retention.
DO get employee feedback after training. Employee engagement is essential to the success of the program, and follow-up is important to allow management to gauge whether and how the training has had an effect on performance.
DON’T expect anyone to have an epiphany after a single training.
DON’T expect attendees to remember everything they heard in the training. Reinforce it and model it until it becomes second nature.
DON’T teach subjects that will not be immediately useful to the attendees. If it is not relevant, they will not retain it.
DON’T “hammer” basic points to death. You will insult the audience’s intelligence, developing resentment rather than skills.
And finally, remember that learners are ultimately responsible for learning. It will not succeed without ownership and responsibility for the process.5
- Ryan, D., “Why People Hate Training.” (http://superperformance.com/hatetraining.php)
- “Realistic Expectations of IT Certification - Beyond Certification” (http://jidaw.com/realistic.html)
- Goforth, C. “Paying for employee training is money well spent.” Knight Ridder Newspapers (http://archive.southcoasttoday.com/daily/03-04/03-30-04/l02ca779.htm)
- Clarke, C.S. “Ensure Effective Employee Training.” (http://superperformance.com/employeetraining.php)
- McNamara, C. “Learner's Basic Requirements for Effective Learning.”
Ann Marie Dinkel, RLATG, has over 20 years of facility management experience, and serves as adjunct faculty for SUNY Delhi and Delaware Technical Community College. For the past several years, she has been a consultant and trainer in Laboratory Animal Science. Ann is an account manager for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states for Alternative Design.