Human Resource departments are often faced with slashes to their training budgets during tough times. Of course when the economy dips, all departmental budgets are under careful scrutiny and Human Resources would be no exception. Having said that, some time back (more than a few years) I was head of training and development in a large food manufacturing company. The economy went into a dive and the MD required that all departments, with the exception of training and development, resubmit their budgets with signifiant cuts. He correctly assessed that the nature of the training we were doing, was not so much an expense, as an investment. The bottom line is, rather than slashing training budgets, companies could be taking a closer look at what training is achieving for the company during the slump. Now is the time to carefully look at WHAT is being trained, focus on the MUST knows, require that behavior change is implemented and that results achieved are measured and reported. In a stormy sea, training may very well help the crew to focus on the critical issues and take advantage of new opportunities when the storm breaks.
First off, let me say that I believe that just about any training programme has some benefit in the overall development of people. If one attends training courses over a period of time, changes in knowledge, skills and attitude happen. But this can be a slow process, and it's expensive.
To improve results, supervisor training programmes should be based on a clear understanding of what needs to change. In addition, the material must be presented using well established learning principles. Thirdly (not to mention fourthly fifthly and sixthly) there should be support to ensure that what has been learned is implemented. This may very well be the most important factor in ensuring that the desired change takes place.
Most trainers will have faced a group of learners who say "why don't our managers attend this course, they need to know this too." And of course the managers may very well have the knowledge and skills that have been taught. The issue is that they don't always believe it, or they don't take the time to follow through and coach their staff after the course.
There are ways around this, but they are not always used - Involve managers in the decision as to what will be trained: facilitate a shortened version of the course and add coaching skills for the managers; visible support from the very top. Also, never underestimate the power of administrative systems that support the correct way to do things.
Coming to think of it, all that I have said applies to any training, not just supervisory.
Shortly literacy tutors are going to be required to understand and use TEC's Foundation Learning Progressions. Our Education consultant, Shirley, recently ran a successful 'Mapping Writing' Workshop for Literacy North Shore tutors. This practical workshop gave participants a brief introduction to learning progressions for Adult Literacy and Language with the strand 'Write to communicate' being the main focus. At the end of the workshop tutors were given an opportunity to apply their new knowledge by 'mapping' students writing.The Tertiary Education Commission describes the Learning Progressions as a guide that can help tutors identify the next learning steps adult students need to take in order to strengthen their expertise in numeracy, literacy and language. They are designed to offer information and a structure that can be used to develop curricular and learning and assessment tools.
So here is a tool for literacy tutors - there will be some challenges getting to grips with the theory and applying it, but once mastered the tool will provide tutors with clearer direction and the learners with better outcomes.
*The publication Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy and Language (Tertiary Education Commission, 2008a) describes the steps towards competency in literacy and language that apply to most adult learners. http://www.tec.govt.nz/templates/standard.aspx?id=1016
I've always been a fan of Computer Based Training (CBT). Fifteen years back the MD of the Biscuit Manufacturing Company I worked for asked us (the training department) if we could develop something he had seen whilst on a business trip to England. It was an early form of CBT - a slide projector was linked to a computer with touch sensitive screen. The operator touched a simulated control panel and the slide showed the results of the action. We developed a similar product but were very soon overtaken by technology. Determined to stay ahead of the game we invested in a Mac with two linked screens. We used Macromedia Director and later Authorware to develop realistic simulations for our machine operators.
Things have come a long way since these days and there are now many alternatives for developing and using CBT and CBE on stand alone computers, company intranets or over the internet. Despite this, when I visit clients or prospects in the field I am yet to see the predicted figures for the % of training conducted through CBT (if I remember correctly some were talking of 80% by this time.) What I mostly see is the odd CD Rom or DVD sitting in the training room, and a perhaps a few employees registered with distance learning providers. Perhaps that is enough, and let's face it, there will always be a place for face to face training. But are Companies making the most of CBT opportunities?
I would value your thoughts and comments on the CBT you are using, the pros and cons, what you would like to see developed in this area etc.
For as long as we have operated our consultancy, we have developed our own training material. Most companies use us for so called 'soft skills' training - supervisor, communication, health and safety (would that be 'semi-hard'?) and the like. Some use us to write machine operator training manuals - these fall squarely in the 'hard skills' category. We tend not to advertise this too loudly, it's 'hard' work and we don't have the capacity to do too much of it. But we have developed a competency in this area and perhaps now is the time to share it.
So we are thinking of coaching in-company manual writers. There would be an initial three to five days of training followed by several months of coaching. We would take people through all aspects of the process - planning, observing, exploring sources of information; taking and editing digital photos; using our template for capturing the data; developing a reader-friendly manual and so on. Manual writing is not for the fainthearted. It involves diverse skills such as breaking processes down to easily followed steps; an ability to observe and understand mechanical things; asking relevant questions; note taking, and computer skills. Our course will focus on all of these and our ongoing coaching will be in areas that the manual writers particularly need.
We would love to hear from Human Resource or Operations Departments who are thinking of developing operator manuals as an integral part of their employee development process. Perhaps you are already doing so, and would like to up-skill your writers, make the manuals more reader-friendly and inclusive of all important safety issues.
Supervisors are often held back from becoming managers, or very good supervisors, through a lack of basic literacy skills. We all know the situation, a supervisor has come up through the ranks, s/he was a great operator and now is in the position of supervisor without these foundational skills. We see it all the time, managers frustrated that written reports are not up to standard, safety officers frustrated that hazard and incident reports are not comprehensively filled in, and supervisors neglecting to meet formally with their teams because they don't know how, or lack the skills to develope a meaningful agenda and actionable minutes.
We have been addressing these very things in a company we work with, and the results have been astonishing. Our work based literacy assessment tools have uncovered the core skills required by each supervisor and each is now on an individualised one-on-one programme of development. As a result, meetings are more productive and outcomes documented, confidence has increased, proposals to improve shop floor productivity are better articulated and therefore supported by management. The list goes on.
We are encouraged. It takes time and effort but companies who go down this route will reap the benefits and so will the individual supervisors. For them it can be life changing.
Feel free to contact us if you would like to know how we can assist within your organisation, or if you are just curious to learn more.