Does your organization have a training budget used to regularly invest in keeping your staff’s skills up-to-date? It’s very common at larger and some small companies for employees to be sent to training classes regularly. But is your organization getting the appropriate ROI for that investment? Do your employees see training as an investment or a burden?
Often with training we ignore some of the core things that are most important to us when planning traditional projects. Why do we do this? Training is a huge investment and often we treat it as lost money that is needed to keep existing employees and entice potential hires to join our team. We need to refocus how we think about training. Here are a few things to consider before spending money from your training budget:
- Training Goal – Goals establish the overall aim of the training.
- Training Objectives - Good objectives are clear about what the trainee is expected to do and should contain standards for performance that can be measured.
- Define a Successful Training – What does the definition of success look like to you? Should employees be able to pass a test? Should they be able to produce something once they return to work?
Let’s talk about each of these in a little more depth.
Setting Training Goals
Goals should be defined at a broader level than objectives and should align with your organization's long-term strategic plan. For example, if you organization’s strategic plan involves expanding your business to new markets, then how does the training you choose help you do that? It could be that the training helps your staff better understand how to bring data together that’s needed to make a data-driven decision about where next to expand.
There should always be a very clear answer to the “Why” question. Why is this training needed? The answer to this question should be clearly communicated not only to management, but also to the attendees so there’s never any doubt in the importance of the courses they’re taking.
Setting Training Objectives
Objectives are based on the goals but broken down into more specific tasks that are related skills that must be learned by the trainees. These tasks often include how the students will demonstrate their new skills or how they will be evaluated based on what they learned.
Training objectives should describe tasks that can actually be observed or produce results that can be measured. Objectives that use the phrase “the employees will understand” are not great because how do you measure or observe someone’s understanding? Unless there is an assessment at the end of a class, it will be difficult to evaluate an employee’s understanding.
Good objectives are clear about what your employee is expected to do and should contain standards for performance that can be measured. For example, an appropriate training objective could be “At the completion of the training, students will design and loaded a sample data warehouse.” This objective speaks to the goal that was mentioned earlier about bringing data together.
Defining a Successful Training
Any project or training should have a definition of what success looks like before starting. Too often, we jump into instructor led trainings or even on-demand classes without thinking about what it means to have a successful training experience. Perhaps the better question is, “What are the consequences of having an unsuccessful week of training?” A bad week of training could result in frustrated employees, delays in projects that depended on the training, or a loss of confidence in the training provider. This can all be avoided by setting proper expectations on what a successful end result should look like.
Setting training goals and objectives can make defining a successful training easier. Achieving your goals can usually be considered a success. So you may ask yourself, “What’s the difference between the goal and the defining success? Aren’t these the same? Can you be successful if you don’t reach you original goal?”
You have probably heard the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know”. In other words, until you’ve thoroughly studied a topic, there are likely things that you haven’t considered. Perhaps a training class exposes your employees to many things that they have never thought before and it shows them how to solve other problems that don’t align with the main goal. Is that a success?
Now, does this mean you can completely abandon your training goal? Certainly not, but the point is there are many subcategories of success that can be found while meeting your predefined goal should still be the main objective. A predefined definition of success is necessary keep your eyes open for things you hadn’t considered before.
How Can We Help
Our desire is to build an ongoing relationship with your organization that doesn’t stop at the sale of a class. We understand that every organization has different goals and training is a significant step towards reaching those goals. Our Solutions Architect team is experienced in helping guide personalized road map discussions and can help guide your team through the weeds to achieve your end goal.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Devin Knight is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, Microsoft Certified Trainer, and President of Pragmatic Works. He focuses on driving adoption of technology through learning. He is an author of nine Power Platform, Business Intelligence, and SQL Server books. He has been selected as a speaker for conferences like Power Platform Summit, PASS Summit, SQLSaturdays, and Code Camps for many years. Making his home in Jacksonville, FL Devin is a contributing member to several local user groups.
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