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Training - Training Needs


There are many reasons to establish a training program: compliance and regulatory issues, productivity problems, and others. Sometimes it's done without clearly justified reasons. But, according to experts, not all situations require a costly training program. For those that do, post-program evaluations often uncover a lack of focus and attention to subject matter.

Like any other project or program undertaken at your facility, training has to be done right in order to work. This means it must be budgeted, planned and implemented in a professional manner. But before anything begins, it's necessary to gauge the need for training, and the level of training that might be necessary. The following will help you do that.

Is Training Necessary?

While some training will always be necessary if you want to meet your company's business objectives and production goals, experts say some companies over-train. Some don't train enough. How do you know when and how much training is necessary?

Mike Coleman, director of technical education with PRIMEDIA Workplace Learning, Carollton, TX, offers three reasons to conduct training:

  • To meet a requirement related to regulatory, contractual, professional or certification issues;
  • To meet an organization's human resource's goals;
  • To improve an organization's bottom line.

Dan Skiff, president of Corporate Training Consultants, Schaumburg, IL and a member of the Fulcrum Network, a Naperville, IL-based consulting firm, says training is necessary when a company is instituting something new, such as computers or software, or if changes outside normal operating procedures are expected

Another way to recognize the need for training is to look at performance issues in your organization. "In manufacturing, performance issues might include low productivity, long cycle times or large scrap problems,"says Skiff. He acknowledges that these and many other problems may reflect a need for training, but he cautions that it is important to examine the situation closely before launching a training program. "You should first look at the problem to see if there's another cause," says Skiff.

As an example Skiff says that as director of training with another company he was once asked to redo all of the company's new-product training programs because sales projections were not being met. "After I spoke to a few sales people, I knew the problem wasn't training," says skiff. "It was a commission problem. The original product line paid a 25% commission and all new products paid only 12%. Which product would you push if your bread and butter depended on it?"

Sometimes the need for training becomes apparent during routine operations. For instance, during a safety audit at FoxIntegrity Graphics, a Windsor, CT-based graphics communications company, Kevin Richardson of KR Cleaning Systems, Inc., Simsbury, CT, discovered that employees didn't know how to use the fire extinguishers the company provided. "Of FoxIntegrity's 82 employees, only about five had ever actually used a fire extinguisher. So we gave every employee a hands-on course with fire extinguishers," says Richardson.

When if comes to determining if technical skills training is needed, Lawrence Vanderburgh, director of special projects with the BOMI Institute, Arnold, MD, suggests checking other factors, such as how often repairs are completed correctly the first time, and if out-sourcing is used - or over-used - to obtain skills you thought you had in-house>

The Training Audit

To obtain more details about your staff's competency, if may be necessary to conduct a training audit. An audit will help you determine the adequacy of current training levels and make recommendations for changes or improvements to your training program. "A training audit should be part of an annual routine, done shortly before the annual budget process," says BOMI's Vanderburgh. "It should not be something dragged out only as first aid when a crisis hits. However, if a facility manager is strapped for funds, an emergency may provide an opportunity to get training that would be unavailable any other way."

Vanderburgh suggests that, before conducting an audit, staff competencies should be categorized by responsibility: business, management and technical. He then suggests translating those competencies into tasks a worker should be able to perform, then turning them into written job descriptions. "If you haven't taken these basic steps, don't bother with an audit," says Vanderburgh. "If these things have been done, then you are ready to do an audit."

According to the Fundamentals of FM, published by BOMI, the steps of an audit are as follows:

  • Compare job descriptions to the total scope of FM (facility management) skills you need. "A strategic facility management plan will help flush these out," says Vanderburgh.
  • Identity skill deficiencies across the organization.
  • Decide which skill gaps to fill by outsourcing.
  • For remaining skill gaps, determine if they can be filled by reassigning existing personnel without additional training. "This usually isn't practical," notes Vanderburgh, "because everyone is already stretched too thin."
  • If you still have skill gaps that must be filled by existing staff, identify what types of training will fill those gaps.
  • Estimate how long individuals will stay in your operation and how they will grow professionally.
  • Find the right training based on the above requirements.
  • Cost it out and put this number in your next budget request.
  • Prepare a contingency plan if the training budget is disapproved.

Critical Curriculum

If an audit reveals that your company needs a training program, and if your budget is approved, it's important the money be used wisely. In other words, make sure you create a program that works at all levels. "Training has real costs," says Coleman. "There is the cost of the training itself, the cost of lost time for having employees off the floor, the cost of wages to pay your employees to be in training, and the potential immediate cost of lost productivity."

Performing a needs-assessment is the most important step you can take to be sure the program you create will do its job without unnecessary spending. "At the outset, you need to analyze the situation and get as much relevant information as you can to really specify what the learning deficiency is, then you can design your training program to do just that," says Skiff.

A needs-assessment will not only provide focus, but will help with the program evaluation. "Good training should start with the question, 'If this training is successful, what will the outcome be?'" says Diane Kubal, founder of the Fulcrum Network. "With the help of management, you need to identify what problem you are solving up front. This will, not only provide training objectives, but will allow you to follow up afterwards and monitor whether the training taught employees what it was supposed to."

Skiff adds that not taking this step is one of the biggest mistakes people make when designing a training course. "People don't make the effort to think the means of evaluation during the design and development stage," he says. "There's a week left in the program and they realize that they will have no previous data or goals to compare the effectiveness of training to."

Examples of measurements include equipment uptime improvements, productivity improvements and scrap reductions. But to use them correctly, it's important to collect pre-training data for comparison.

Evaluating the Outcome

The simplest way to evaluate the effectiveness of training, according to Vanderburgh, is to determine if your employees are able to give you a brief report about what they learned. "If they can't do that or if they complain that they cannot put into practice what they learned in a training class, the training was not effective," he says. Kubal's Fulcrum Network uses the following four-step evaluations:

  • Use evaluation forms to provide feedback.
  • Test after teaching a new process.
  • Observe people in their working environment.
  • Compare pre- and post-training measurements.

Skiff stresses that training can't be relied upon to solve all problems in an organization. But because it can do so much, most companies find the effort expended to create a well-researched and focused plan is well spent.



Joy LePree, Contributing Editor


IMPO Magazine


December, 2000


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