Employee training has historically been treated like the business version of mom and apple pie.
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We've taken for granted the supposed benefit of the seminars, conferences, and training junkets that constantly parade through the workplace.
But in today's competitive business environment, you can't afford to take anything for granted and in some sectors, training is finding itself under the microscope.
Common sense tells you that a certain amount of training is crucial to fulfilling your mission and it would be suicidal to eliminate your training program entirely. But in every business there is an invisible line between training programs that bring a return on investment, and those that are sapping time and resources that would be better spent somewhere else.
Discerning the location of that line can be tricky. Some training venues that appear to be invaluable may in fact yield results that are lackluster or even counter to the organization's goals.
I've found that the best method for separating winners and losers is to ask myself a few, simple questions before I commit to initiating – or continuing – any training program in my company.
Training Assessment Tools
Here are four questions we ask before we approve any employee training initiative.
1. Why am I offering this training to my workers?
The first question I ask myself is also the most important. If I am thinking about providing a specific training venue for my staff because my competitors will be there or because it's being held in Hawaii, then I've completely missed the mark.
Ultimately, the only valid reason for providing a training program is because you believe it will equip your workers with the tools they need to perform their jobs and significantly improve the health of the business.
2. What would happen if we don't participate in this training program?
Let's face it – most business leaders are optimists. We tend to focus on best-case scenarios, briefly consider probable scenarios, and ignore worst-case scenarios altogether.
But when a training program is assessed through an optimist's lens, the value of the program is distorted. No matter what the brochure says, no single training resource is going to revolutionize your business.
For a reality check, I force myself to consider what would happen if my company decided to pass on a training program. If the results are negligible, the program isn't worth the investment. But if non-participation would likely put us at a competitive disadvantage or leave a current problem unresolved, then the training program is probably worth considering.
3. Are the program's probable benefits worth the cost?
Employee training programs can be pricey. In addition to the cost of the training itself, the total cost often includes travel and lodging expenses for multiple employees.
Although it is difficult to quantify the intangible benefits of a specific training program, you should do your best to translate the value of the program into dollars and cents. If the training will enable workers to produce 10% more widgets a day, quantification is easy. However, in most cases you will need to analyze the actual cost of the program (including travel & lodging) and the benefits on a per-person basis.
If the probable benefits of the program outweigh the investment per worker, then the training program is probably a good idea. If the cost per person seems exorbitant to you, then it might be time to explore other options.
4. What other options do I have?
Sometimes your training options are limited. If your industry requires a certification course for a specific piece of equipment and there is only one company that offers the course, guess who will be doing your training.
Fortunately, those kinds of situations don't happen very often. For the most part, you have a variety of providers and venues to choose from, including the option of providing the training with resources that already exist in-house. Organizing brown-bag lunch seminars led by employees can be a great way to train employees by leveraging knowledge that is already present within your four walls.
If cost is the sticking point, you may even want to explore the possibility of conducting employee training via teleconferencing. Although it's not as user-friendly as a face to face venue, teleconferencing gives you the ability to offer large group training for a minimal expense.