Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I'm a trainer not flippin' Paul Daniels !

It's not my job to be able to pull rabbits out of a hat and actually I dont consider it to be a fair expectation of me or any other learning and development professional. As the title of this post infers I would have joined the magic circle if I felt that was my vocation.

In my 20 plus years of working within corporate learning & development functions, and more latterly as a freelancer it still amazes me that a training course or workshop  is touted as the answer to global warning. The line manager recognises that a member of their team has a development need and books them on to e.g. a presentation skills workshop. That's it then, the team member after two days in the classroom will emerge as an inspirational presenter, job done.

Well in fact no, because the training is only the start of the journey, let me explain.

1) The manager sits down with the individual explains the reason for the training course
2) The manager goes through a pre-course brief with the individual where they discuss the course content and objectives so the individual is clear about what to expect
3) The individual attends the course
4) Post course, as soon as practicably possible, the line manager sits down with the individual and conducts a post course brief exploring:
  • How the individual found the course
  • What the individual learnt
  • What learning the individual wants to implement from the course
  • Next steps - some sort of SMART action plan covering the what, the when and the measures of success which will demonstrate that the individual has changed, improved and developed the skills learnt
5) Then as soon as practicably possible the individual will write a presentation, deliver it (with the manager observing the presentation, so as to be able to give feedback to the individual).

It is this positive reinforcement and process of action planning, feedback and discussion which leads to sustainable change in the individual and the embedding of the new skills. The absence of this process, lack of interest, engagement and reinforcement from a line manager means that the individual, no matter how well intentioned, will revert back to doing presentations the way they were doing them when the development need was identified in the first place.

Training and development of your staff is an investment, and like any investment you want to see a return on your money. If you don't follow this process you might as well get a bunch of fivers and set them alight because that's what you do when you put people through training but don't follow it up.

Can you really afford to fritter money  in this fashion. Training without follow up, means no change and gives rise to the mantra that training is a cost, adds no value and we can save our money and manage without it.

It's my job as a learning & development professional to help my customers understand this, otherwise the beancounters cut the training budget which means that the people and the organisation dont develop and the problems associated with this approach bite the organisation in the bum at some point in the near future..

To quote the late Bill Shankly, this isn't about life and death it's more important that !