Training team members can be an excellent way to improve their skills. Leaders do need to be wary, however, of just sending people on training courses and hoping they learn something.
Training courses are expensive, so you need to get some value for your dollar.
Some leaders consider training to be a “tick the box” exercise. That is, you send people off, they take a course and then the job is done.
If only it were so simple!
In this post, I’m going to take a look at some key questions to ask yourself, before you send your people on that fancy training course. This will help set you and your team members up for success.
How Do You Work Out Whether Training Is Successful?
To start with, let’s look at how to assess whether the training was actually worth the time and money.
One of the popular models used to consider this was created by Professor Donald Kirkpatrick. It is appropriately called the Kirkpatrick model.
This model consists of four levels as shown below.
The lowest level is the reaction of participants taking the training. This involves considering whether people enjoyed the training, found it useful and generally had a favourable experience.
The second level is learning, which looks at whether participants actually learned the required skills, behaviours or gained the attitudes that were supposed to come out of the training.
The third very important level is that of behaviour. Did the team members actually change their behaviour based on the training? Or are they just doing what they did before?
Lastly, the results level is important for measuring whether there are any tangible results that improved after the training. For example, if you sent people on a specific safety training course … did the number of those particular safety incidents decrease?
The last level is perhaps the hardest to assess, because it involves having the right metrics in place to evaluate success or failure.
The Higher the Level Reached, the More Useful the Training
Ideally, you want to reach the top level of the model. That is, you want to be able to measure that the training has had a positive impact on some part of your team or organisation.
If you stopped at level 1, your team members might have had a fun time, eaten a nice lunch and enjoyed themselves, but weren’t able or willing to apply any of their learning. (This happens a lot).
Reaching level 2 is better, because at least your people will have learned new skills. But if you stop there, they haven’t applied any of them to the workplace.
Reaching level 3 is good, because at least your people have changed their behaviour. They are doing new things as a result of the training which hopefully lead to positive outcomes.
Learn More: How Leaders Can Improve Team Performance Through Cross Training.
Successfully Training Team Members Requires Leadership Support
Achieving the benefits of training can’t be left up to the team members. They need the support of their leaders to make it happen.
Recently I ran a time management training course. At the end, I ran a session asking the participants what would stop them from implementing the tools or techniques to improve their situation with regard to time management.
Some of the top responses included:
- Lack of support from my manager or team in implementing the changes
- Falling into old habits; and
- Lack of self discipline.
This tells me that to see results from training team members, we need to support them to change their behaviour and hold them accountable for making the change.
Without these two ingredients, there is a good chance that the training will be a waste of time and money.
While these two factors won’t guarantee success, it will provide the team member with a fighting chance to make a change that helps them and the team!
Learn More: Thoughtful Leader Podcast #89: Ways You Might Be Reducing Accountability in Your Team.
3 Questions to Ask Before Training Team Members
Based on these ingredients of leadership support and accountability, here are some good questions to ask yourself before sending your team members off to that expensive training course.
1. Is the Training Relevant to The Team Member’s Current or Future Role?
The first question is simple. Is the training relevant?
If the training is relevant to the team member’s current role, then there is a good chance they’ll be able to use the skills when they return.
Perhaps it could be that the training is relevant to something the team member wants to do in the future.
This can be OK too, as long as the future goal is not too far distant! Otherwise, skills and knowledge are likely to be forgotten before they can be put into practice.
You might think this is an obvious question, but it’s a very important one.
I often speak to people who arrive at a training course because “they thought it looked interesting”. While it’s nice to be interested in something, this isn’t necessarily going to help the team member, the team or the organisation.
So instead of letting team members pick from a big list of training courses based solely on their preference, be sure to question the role relevance of the training. This will improve the chances of new skills and knowledge actually being applied in the workplace.
Learn More: How to Create a Skills Matrix and Improve Your Team.
2. Will the Team Member Have An Opportunity to Use the New Skills or Knowledge?
Even if the training is relevant to the team member’s role, there is no guarantee that it will be used effectively.
That’s why it’s important for leaders to provide opportunities for their people to use what they’ve learned.
If the new skills or knowledge can be used directly in the team member’s role, then you need to set clear expectations about how that should happen.
This often starts with the team member telling you what they learned. Have them sit down with you or the team and present what was covered in the training, and what they can use.
Find out what they think is most useful, and what they think they can apply.
Then find a way to support them in doing it.
This could be through a new improvement project, modifying a team process to incorporate new techniques or simply providing feedback about how they are doing, if the training related to softer skills that aren’t necessarily so tangible.
For example, if your team member went to a time management course and they learned some new delegation skills, you might seek feedback from the people they delegate to, to see how it’s going.
Hint: If you don’t want your team members pushing back on you or negotiating their workload, it’s best that you don’t send them on a time management course in the first place.
3. How Will You Hold the Team Member Accountable For Demonstrating What They Learn?
The last key ingredient is accountability.
You need to hold the team member accountable for putting in practice what they learn.
This is not only for the good of the team (and the training budget), but also for the team member too!
Sometimes team members can find it hard to apply new skills in the workplace, especially those that involve being assertive or changing their behaviour in a way that may be a change for others.
If you can identify specific ways to hold your people accountable for implementing the training knowledge, you’re more likely to see them actually doing it!
It’s no good leaving your people to do it on their own. They need your support, and you need to get your money’s worth.
Some examples of how to hold people accountable include:
- Checking in with them for a progress update
- Measuring some sort of metric, based on implementing the training outcomes; or
- Having them deliver a presentation to the team, about the changes they’ve made.
You might also enlist the support of a coach, to help your team member make a change. Some training companies include coaching sessions as part of the training, or following its completion.
If this is an option, I suggest you take it, as this can make a huge difference to help people put what they learn into practice.
Too Many Training Budgets Are Wasted. Don’t Let It Happen In Your Team!
It’s easy to get a poor outcome from training if you aren’t careful, so ask yourself these questions before you commit.
Any reputable trainer and training company would rather that their training makes a real difference to your people and your organisation.
You can’t leave this up to the team member alone.
They need your support to make sure the benefits of the training are realised!
How do you make sure training is valuable for your team members? Let me and all the other thoughtful leaders know in the comments!
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