In today’s rapidly changing environment one of the keys to the success of an organization is the constant re-training of the employees to gear them better to handle the new challenges. Most organizations are also trying to bridge the problem of “Job Skills Gap Syndrome”, i.e. the gap between an employee’s skills and the actual skills required to perform the job, through training. As per a survey conducted by American Society for Training & Development in 2007, American organizations were spending around $134.39 billion on employee training annually. This works out to nearly $1,100 per employee every year.
Given this huge amount of money being spent on training, the question that really pops up is how effective are these trainings. According to Clinton Longenecker, Professor of Mgmt at University of Toledo (Ohio), in many cases the training engaged falls short of expectations. So instead of increasing the competitiveness of a company, it actually ends up affecting the bottom line of the company. Some of the common causes attributed to the ineffectiveness of these trainings are that they are either too comprehensive, inappropriate, are geared up for the wrong audience, lack practical aspects or sometimes even attendance.
So how do organizations measure the effectiveness of training especially given the huge amount of money spent on training? This problem becomes more challenging for soft skills training where the impact of the training takes more time to be visible. An organization needs to have a proper plan in place to track the effectiveness of trainings conducted and to ensure that the organization gets maximum benefits for the money spent on training.
At a very basic level, an organization needs to really understand the trainings required by their employees. This can only happen if operational level managers have a good understanding of the skills required by individuals to perform a job and gaps that is causing them to be ineffective. Though this is usually a comprehensive and time consuming task it is usually worth the effort. One way for organizations to ensure that this happens is to define a minimum number of days of trainings or a minimum number of trainings an individual needs to undergo in a year. But during the implementation phase care should be taken that these trainings are not being done just to achieve the goal and they are really required by the individuals.
Before sending any employee for training, a manager should at the very least list out the set of expectations that he has from the training and once an employee undergoes these trainings, the manager has to gauge whether these expectations have been fulfilled or not. Doing this is not as easy as it sounds, but there are a few tricks which the managers can employ. For e.g. some managers usually ask the employees undergoing trainings to come back and conduct the same training for the rest of the team. What this ensures is that the employees undergo the trainings seriously and usually take back notes which will help them prepare for the subsequent training that they have to take. Also, when they take a presentation they are more aware of intricacies of the topics as they fend on to queries from their colleagues.
But though this helps in knowledge transfer and ensuring that individuals attend trainings more attentively, it does not really comment on the effectiveness of the training. For this, usually managers should have some tasks which they expect individuals to do more effectively after this training and they should ensure that they ask these individuals to undertake these tasks within reasonable period after the trainings. From an organization point of view, it is pertinent to get this feedback from the managers on the effectiveness of the training and also what expectation was not meant. This level of detail would ensure that generic answers on the effectiveness of trainings are not provided and more specific details which will help in the future planning.
Though the above step works very well for technical trainings, for soft skills trainings it is slightly more difficult to gauge or expect an improvement in matter of days. For this the manager needs to take a long term view and monitor the progress of an individual over a period of time after the training.
Induction trainings provide a completely different set of issues in this respect. Most organizations these days have a 1-3 month induction process where in they try to bridge the skills provided by college education and the wants of the industry. Unfortunately, most of these trainings have become synonymous with college education and the evaluation techniques have also become old school so to say. Organizations need to be very careful on what they expect to achieve through this induction. On the one hand it might be that the college education is behind the times and to bridge it class room style of education is needed and thus a college style examination is necessary. On the other hand if the aim of this is to ease the individuals into the organization by just smoothing the rough edges, then more intuitive methods like mock projects under real project managers with an emphasis on everything that happens in a normal project might be more appropriate. But again this is much easier said than done and requires a commitment from the complete hierarchy with an organization to ensure that this can happen.
At the end of the day, trainings should be provided to make the organizations more effective and competitive and not to be a burden on the bottom line of the organization. Also, in today’s world where the trainings are moving out of the classrooms into an individual’s desktop via self-paced trainings, more thought needs to be put into means and ways of evaluating the effectiveness of trainings.
C. V. Ram Narayanan Sastry