Upgrade Your Staff ! A Structured Approach to Guarantee a Return
First of all, we need to get one thing straight: training is not an expense, it's an investment. If you don't  'get'  this, you will always lag behind those who do.

As with any investment, you will expect a return, and although measuring that return may sound difficult, it isn't. This article will show you how to do exactly that, and watch your business reap the benefits. This means that we are not viewing training as an unquantifiable outlay but as a way of getting higher performance from staff through better skill levels and a more productive environment.

Increased Performance

So, how do we do it?

Whether you are a newcomer to, or an experienced professional in the training environment; whether your staff numbers are small or large; the approach is the same.

Step One: Keep it Simple!

Pick one or two people, or maybe a small team - the most obvious cases where skills are lacking - and define, simply, where they will benefit most. It may be a straightforward IT skill like word processing, spreadsheets or building web pages. It may be in what are called 'Soft Skills' - time management, assertiveness or communications. Or they may need job-specific skills, so a course for a receptionist, a customer service operator or a project manager would be most relevant. Remember: just small numbers at this stage.

Step Two: Be Specific

You may be happy to send your staff on a generic 'Selling Skills' course (for example), but if you want to get the best results, take a few minutes (yes, that's all you need) to assess which areas would be most beneficial. It's usually best - even if the needs are obvious to all - to talk to the candidates themselves: you will not only get their commitment, but just by asking a simple question like "What areas of your job do you find most difficult?", you will get a first-hand assessment of needs, and you may uncover areas that you had not considered before. You now have specific needs for your training.

Step Three: Shortlist Your Providers

The decision of which training provider to use can often be intimidating, simply because of the choice available. But this choice can be simplified by looking at three criteria:
  • Experience: How long has the company been in business ?  Delivering a range of training courses is a complex process that requires an established operation.  Set your own criteria, but more than ten years would be a good indicator of adequate experience.
  • Quality: What quality accreditations does the provider have ?  ISO9001 is essential to the maintenance of operational standards, and a discipline-specific certification like IITT (IT training) or ILM (business training) are indications of the level of further investment in quality.
  • Choice: Bigger organisations usually give you more choice of courses, locations and delivery options, but be careful that they aren't "too big to care" : a quick telephone call will give you a good idea.

You now have a shortlist of providers.

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Step Four: Find the Most Relevant Course

Any competent training provider will show a list of courses, with content, on their website. Take a look to confirm that your subject areas are covered - so if you have identified that 'prioritisation' and 'delegation' are specific needs for your Time Management training, make sure they are included in the course content. You should now have a list of two or three preferred courses.

Step Five: Organise the Training

Speak to the providers. If you need help, the person you speak to should be able to give it. When you book, the process should be straightforward. If you are booking places on a scheduled Public class, they should cost between £200 and £350 each (maybe more for management courses). For group bookings on Private (closed) classes, the cost per delegate is usually much less.

You should receive a confirmation, and documentation should give you full details of date, location and subject.  When your delegates attend the training, they should know the specific areas they need to cover, and although there will be much more that's covered on the course, they should make sure, before the training finishes, that their needs have been met.  A good training provider will allow scope for job-related questions on the day. Your staff will leave the training with new skills that can be applied directly to their jobs.

Step Six: See the Results

Once they are back at work, speak to them and discuss how it will benefit them going forward.  This should be a formality because you have followed the above process, but it reinforces to them what you expect.

Now monitor them in the areas you first identified (always adopt a helpful approach) and let them practice and talk about their skills if they want.  Whether you apply specific measures or just observe how they work, the process is simple and takes almost no time at all.

Do not forget to follow up, whether on a regular or ad hoc basis: this helps to reinforce the training so they continue to use their new skills. By doing this, you will see the benefits and the return on your investment will be clear.

Return on Investment

Step Seven: Invest some more!

Whether you want to stay cautious, or roll out a programme, is your decision.  But with the success that follows from using a structured approach, you will want to apply it to more people, or skills, or both. And by properly recognising the tangible benefits of training, your company's productivity will increase, your working environment will improve, and you will wonder how anyone could think of training as an 'expense'!

Your staff are your biggest asset... so stay tuned to this!

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