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Take Training Seriously and Maximize Employee Performance!

Posted by on June 13, 2012

Maximize Employee PerformanceManagers achieve their objectives through the efforts of their team—so in most organizations, an important aspect of the annual performance review is the assessment of development needs in order to ensure that the skills and behaviors of individuals are at a level that allows them to deliver on their objectives. Most managers take the performance review process very seriously. So I find myself wondering why managers often don’t put the same effort into supporting their employees before and after attending a training course. After all, training should directly support the goals of employees and managers alike.

As a Trainer and Coach with almost twenty years’ experience, I am often dismayed by the lack of support and, in some instances, distinct lack of interest shown by managers when they send an employee on a training course. At its worst, it can mean that participants do not even know why they are attending a workshop and have not had a pre-course conversation to discuss the objectives of the development they are seeking to achieve. Even if a pre-course discussion has taken place, the majority of attendees don’t have a post-training meeting with their manager. So, what are the best practices for pre- and post-training manager-employee discussions?

Pre-Training: Best Practices

Assuming that an employee’s development need has been accurately identified by their manager and mutually agreed upon, the next step is to select the best method to develop the skill or behaviours. Keep in mind that a training course may not always be the best option; coaching, on-the-job training, online training, and even reading can be excellent methods of development. However, once it has been determined that a group training course is the best option for a particular employee, the next steps are:

  • Target areas of development and identify how these align with the course objectives
  • Be specific about expectations and explore how these skills should enhance employee performance
  • Discuss any concerns or limitations which the employee may have
  • Decide how you will each assess the impact of the training
  • Discuss whether the employee has to collect feedback or complete pre-work prior to the course, and if so, discuss how that process works

During Training: Best Practices

With the training scheduled, the pre-course discussion finished, and pre-work completed, how can you best support the participant during the training? There’s only one rule:

  • Ensure that the employee has the opportunity to participate in the training course without interruption by agreeing upon how their role will be covered while they are away from their job
    • The advent of the mobile device and email means that we are never truly “away from work,” but managers can encourage their employees to put an out of office message on their email and only deal with extremely urgent issues during the training
    • Managers can also demonstrate support and commitment to employees’ development by not contacting them and resisting the urge to ask employees to deal with work during the course

I have seen all types of interruptions from the managers themselves, up to and including calling employees to meetings or conference calls during workshops! This is not only disruptive to their learning, but also that of other participants. It’s vital that managers should resist the urge to interrupt their employees’ training experience.

Post-Training: Best Practices

And now for arguably the most important role you can play in maximizing the development of an employee: post-training support. Unfortunately, statistics show that only 14% of participants have any follow-up discussion with their manager post-training! This is a huge wasted opportunity, since a post-training meeting demonstrates that you are taking their development seriously and gives an added impetus to the consolidation and application of learning. While the exact nature of the conversation will depend on the type of training undertaken, the areas to be covered should include:

  • What were the key learning points?
  • How can the key learning points be put into action?
  • What support is required?
  • How will the impact of the learning be measured on an ongoing basis?

Taking the time to demonstrate an interest in employees’ development before, during and after training is essential to maximizing your training investment. It’s part of a good manager’s role. As Calvin Coolidge so aptly said, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

Angela Steatham is a highly experienced facilitator, coach and OD consultant and a CGWA expert trainer. Based in the U.K., she delivers the Positive Power and Influence program throughout Europe.