High-tech training is the key to profit

On-the-job education can do more than correct past mistakes. At its best it targets trainees just when they need it, says Bill Byham

Workload pressures have exerted more pressure on managers to transform training and education into a profit-oriented, even profit-generating, function. Many organisations find it hard to quantify the returns they get from investing in training and education, but we do know, however, that training is expensive. So how can they get the best?

For large organisations, training budgets can run into millions of pounds, plus the cost of travel and accommodation, as well as those related to an employee's absence from work and the costs of trainers and materials.

It's costly, so why is it done? Despite the expense, I would encourage organisations to continue to invest in training. Not because it keeps DDI in business, but because it is perhaps the most strategic investment you can make - an investment in your people.

Those companies that invest in their people today are the ones that will thrive tomorrow. Intellectual capital, personified by the "knowledge worker", is the single most valuable commodity on the market today. That's people whose value to an organisation lies in their knowledge and intellectual skills. The bulk of their work is non-repetitive, knowledge-based and cognitively complex.

By the year 2000, one-third of the workforce will be made up of knowledge workers. Some 65-75 per cent of Microsoft workers are knowledge workers. Microsoft and companies like it are investing $650bn (pounds 380bn) a year in the salaries and benefits of such workers.

Investments of this size show that quality of employees, not technology or even financial capital, will determine organisational success into the next millennium. There will be intensive competition for the best people at all levels - especially those who can work independently, succeed in different cultures, manage worldwide enterprises, make the most of technology, flourish in fluid (or absent) structures, think creatively and manage others who can do the same.

Shortages of skilled, motivated individuals with the ability to learn and adapt are evident everywhere. Organisations that are doing well in selecting, developing and promoting individuals are pulling ahead of the competition. Corporate education and effective employee recruitment and selection is the key when attracting the best. Employees will be interested in committing to an organisation that will help define their future and help them deal with challenging peer and leadership issues. Increasingly, knowledge workers look for mentors to help them shape their careers.

Too often, in the past, training has been delivered to the wrong person and used to solve problems which actually arise from faulty selection procedures.

Identification of a problem, determination of its root causes, and cost/benefit analysis of possible solutions are crucial first steps in any intervention, and the first thing managers should do before making expenditures. This analysis is often called "performance consulting". If your department isn't involved in this, you might be spending money on training that is not yielding any returns.

One strategy for minimising the cost of this investment is outsourcing, something that is now common in the US. In addition to removing fixed costs, outsourcing provides an opportunity to examine the real costs and benefits of training. For example, DDI is providing all the training and development for BASF North America.

DDI specialises in training and has a lot of in-house capabilities, so it can deliver training 20-40 per cent cheaper than comparable classroom training provided by BASF employees. More cost-effective training can be offered through CD-Rom and self-study methodologies. Once BASF has fully installed its intranet, we will be able to utilise this system to deliver training more effectively.

Efficient delivery is the key to effective training. It contains costs and improves returns. Training must be designed and delivered so employees learn what they need to learn at the right moment, without taking them away from productive activity. I have concentrated on "soft skill" or interpersonal and leadership training, although what I say is applicable to technical training.

The system of apprenticeships demonstrates efficient delivery. As people became more competent at delivering tasks, the level of difficulty was increased. The moment when the apprentice seeks more information is known as the "teachable" moment. In many crafts, apprentices were encouraged to sign their work - to take pride in their achievements. We now call this empowerment.

Coaching, training and development was turned over to the professionals as the Industrial Revolution proceeded and this has continued through to today's trend towards flatter structures. There is little time for coaching and encouragement, and training occurs often at a time which is convenient to the organisation, rather than appropriate for the individual. Good leaders still need and want training but they want it at a time when they can apply it and when they are ready to learn.

In the modem workplace we have to catch people at the "teachable" moment. It is the only efficient way of providing training. In addition, it provides the motivation necessary to make "self-study" work. Many organisations are fooling themselves by buying into self-study training options which their employees just don't ever get around to completing because they have too many conflicting demands on their time.

There is always a small proportion that will adhere to the self-study training, but most people won't. They need motivation. This is where training is crucial at the "teachable" moment and the question is - how do you actually identify that moment?

Intranet-based systems are one option. They can be loaded with information, organised around specific skills and employees can "hone in" on an area they need to develop, including watching a video of someone successfully using the skill, reading about the skill, or identifying situations in which to practise the skill.

Take a newly appointed team leader who has trouble motivating a team and has an important meeting with them tomorrow morning. It's critical he has their support but has no time to discuss this with his boss. He can log on to the online system and spend as much time as possible on learning about "motivating others". He can look at quick tips, read what successful leaders say about motivation, even check out a newsgroup which has been working on similar skills. He may be able to make a self-study course online or download materials to review as he prepares for his meeting.

The ability to provide coaching is important. The apprentice can turn to the intranet for helpful advice here too. A drop down menu gives solutions to dealing with issues, such as, "dealing with problem employees". The user will receive online coaching on how to deal with this problem, ranging from quick tips to more in-depth information.

Another, more low-tech option is "phone coaching". At DDI we provide clients with interviewer training via the Internet or on CD-Rom. After individuals have learned the basic skills of interviewing applicants, they need to practise before going out and trying their skills out on actual applicants.

We can help them do this in three ways:

q The individuals group together for practice sessions where they role- play interviews and give feedback.

q Key managers such as regional sales managers are trained to coach newly- appointed subordinate leaders through practice interviews or real life interviews.

q Phone practice is given, after which the individual is given a free number in the US to set up an appointment several hours later to practise their techniques with an expert interviewer, who will then give them feedback

People know they need to plan their career, think through their strengths and weaknesses - but they often don't get around to doing it. When they are motivated, organisations need to be able to help them and this is another opportunity for the intranet, since recruitment advertisements and developmental activities can be housed in the same online library.

In this summary of the technology associated with just-in-time training development and coaching, I've described features and programmes that exist today. These are the features I feel have the most potential to provide the training necessary for the workforce of the future, to provide you with the strategic advantage that is effective training.

Bill Byham is Chief Executive Officer of Development Dimensions International (DDI).

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game