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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Know when training is the right solution
Article Type: How to … From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 10, Issue 3
Practical advice for HR professionals
Employers often ask “why doesn’t training stick?” and responses vary from poor venue, poor delivery and bad materials to disinterest from attendees and ineffective training needs analysis. This article discusses how employers can decide when training is the best option and how to get the most out of it.
Taking time off to attend a training workshop can be difficult due to busy schedules, especially for those in managerial positions. So, the key question is how can we ensure that valuable time is well spent and that companies get a good return on investment. The solution is simple when you follow the four key steps outlined below.
1. Identify the need
The first step must be to identify any issues an employee has, as this enables the employer to determine exactly what needs to change both for the employee and the business. The “magic wand” question can be useful: “If I had a magic wand and could change one thing for you what would it be?” as this helps people get to the real issue.
When identifying development needs, employers should avoid listening to generalizations. Instead, they should focus on specifics and ask team members to give examples relating to any issues they raise. For example, when dealing with a manager who is considered aggressive and dictatorial, questions should be asked to get to the root of the issue, such as “How is he aggressive?” and “You say he never gives positive feedback, can you remember a time when he did?”
2. Identify the cause
If dealing with an employee’s problematic behavior, it is essential to determine what is causing that behavior. The way we behave on the surface is driven by issues at a much deeper level. The “neurological levels” model developed by Dilts (2006) demonstrates this (see Figure 1). Each level affects the next one down, so change implemented at one level has a knock-on effect for all those below. However a change at a lower level would struggle to affect one above. While most training takes place at the capability and behavioral levels, it is common for the real issue to be founded at the belief level, which is why training often makes little or no difference.
To return to the example of the problematic manager, if he suggests that he has “never been good with people” the employer needs to identify if this is a capability-based statement or a belief. If the manager believes this to be true, training to improve his management skills will struggle to override his belief. In this instance, instead of training, the key is to determine why the manager has come to believe that he is not good with people. Through asking the right questions the employer can discover how to change this belief and in turn help the manager to alter his problematic behavior.
3. Consider all options
Once any problems have been identified and explored, the next step is to look at what can be done to help the employee resolve the issue and to develop positively. The employer should help the employee explore the various options that are available. To ensure ownership, it is vital to let the employee come up with the options and encourage them to lead the process. When possible solutions have not been identified, the employer should use questioning to suggest ideas rather than proposing them directly, for example “Have you heard of anyone ever doing […]?” or “I’m not sure if […] is an option? What are your thoughts on that?”
4. Get commitment
Once all the options are acknowledged, the final step is to evaluate which is the best solution to the problem. The employee should decide which of the solutions would achieve the best results by thinking about the results and how that would feel. The employer should observe the decision-making process to ensure that the employee believes that the solution chosen will be a success and that they completely buy into it, otherwise it will fail. Commitments must be made by both sides in terms of next steps, dates, responsibilities and agreeing how success will be measured.
The key to selecting the “right solution” is to get to the root of the problem before turning to training, only then can training “stick.” It is important to remember that issues may be bigger than the individual alone and the solution may require wider cultural change rather than individual training.
Cheryl BennettBased at Pelican People.
About the author
Cheryl Bennett is an experienced coach and Director of people development consultancy Pelican People, which was set up in 2004. She is also a clinical hypnotherapist and NLP master practitioner. Her career includes nearly 20 years as a coach and trainer in a wide variety of business sectors and with a wide variety of organizations in both the public and private sectors. Cheryl Bennett can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dilts, R. (2006), Sleight of Mouth: The Magic of Conversational Belief Change, Meta Publications, Capitola, CA, pp. 246–9