There are two types of training—the first and most basic of which centers on teaching employees to improve their performance of required skills and tasks. The second type does that, too, but also produces far more transformational results because it teaches skills and behaviors that align with larger company initiatives and goals.
A way to illustrate this point is to envision a golf caddy as a trainer. A caddy can walk the course and hand his golfer one golf club at a time and say, “This is the best club for this shot.” This might improve the golfer’s game. But what if the caddy added a higher level of information by giving perspective on the overall layout of the hole, the potential hazards in the path or even a strategy for playing the entire course?
Similar lessons apply in many settings. Do you want your son or daughter’s piano teacher to only teach the mechanics of pushing down a key, or to give an overview of an entire piece of music? If you are hiring a subcontractor, do you want to discuss only the first step of a project, or do you want to collaborate on the project’s overall scope of work?
Given choices like these, of course you would prefer the bigger picture. But how do you do that in planning your company’s training procedures? The following four steps can lead you toward perfecting that process.
1. Define & keep important objectives in mind
Are you striving to create a company known for delivering excellent customer satisfaction? That is a great objective, but reaching sometimes it means defining specifics to get you there—what exactly you would like your training process to achieve.
For example, you could plan to train your team to resolve 90 percent of all complaints during a customer’s first phone call. Or you could focus on training to deliver the kind of care that gets 90 percent of callers to report that they are “extremely satisfied” on a post-call survey. When you define goals, you can design training that achieves them.
Another way of stating this principle is: “Begin with the end in mind.” That means understanding the bigger vision of what you would like your organization to become, then defining specific training steps to achieve it.
2. Break down silo walls
Trainers are often brought in to different company sectors and encouraged to stay in them. They might teach only skills for servicing or installing products, providing customer service, preparing paperwork or overseeing an entire project. But what if your trainers thought outside these silos and delivered value that result in improvements across your entire organization?
One way to reach this objective is to initiate discussions between your training team and the people who create marketing and advertising, manage your supply chain, oversee your online presence and more. The more disciplines you invite into the process, the more likely your training team will find ways to make the training process more encompassing and effective.
3. Avoid training in a vacuum
Whether your training team works in-house or you use an outside training development company, make sure to engage them in conversations regarding company collateral. This should include everything from company quarterly reports, relevant trade publications, news stories about your organization, press releases and all other pertinent documents you can provide. Do all those materials suggest any untapped opportunities to align your training specifics with larger trends, goals and initiatives?
4. Tie training to measureable metrics
It is essential to develop a set of clear metrics to measure before and after training. It is the only way to understand what your training has accomplished and how much closer you are to meeting your goals. The following are some suggestions for developing metrics that don’t just gather data, but reveal deeper progress:
- If your vision is to become a leader in customer service and retention, you can survey customers before and after your employees have gone through the training program. You should ask them about their overall satisfaction with their last interaction with your team, the likelihood they will recommend you to other customers, and other factors.
- If you want to gain maximum value from a limited-time offer and offer training to support that goal, your goal could be a certain percentage of sales improvement among employees who took the training. Measure and report on those results after the training has been delivered.
- If you are implementing HR training in an effort to increase employee retention and become an employer of choice for job seekers, you can measure retention rates before and after training and survey employees on metrics like, “I see a clear career path if I remain employed here” or, “I understand the criteria that my supervisor and company use to evaluate my performance and progress in the company.”
If you ask a group of businesspeople to define what training is, chances are that most of them will say something like, “Training is a process that teaches people the skills they need to do their jobs better.” Of course, this is true. But if you then go on to ask a series of deeper questions such as, “Wouldn’t you like your training to build a workforce that builds your brand? Helps your company achieve its mission? Communicates your standards to the world?” many of those business people should enthusiastically reply, “Yes, we would!”
As you launch new training initiatives or refine those you already have, keep these larger issues in mind. The better you can align training to your business goals, the more successful you can become.