Carefully planning your training and development strategy can make a real difference to how successful the project will be.  Here are three key steps to take.

1. What are your needs?

This may sound somewhat obvious, but have you really taken the time to consider carefully what your business needs in order to succeed? Your business plan or objectives for the company is a good place to start - aligning your training and development with these should help you to identify the skills needed now and in the future. If this is coupled with a thorough review of the existing skill set at individual level you are well on the way to having a training and development plan that meets the needs of both individuals and the organisation as a whole.

2. How will you meet those needs?

Ok, so you've identified what training and development is necessary to make you super-successful and competitive. Now, all you need to do is to find the right courses and send the right people on them – right? Well, not necessarily! Sometimes an "off the shelf" course is exactly what is needed – but there are many other approaches. Questions that you might want to ask yourself include:

  • Are the courses on offer sufficiently bespoke for our needs?
  • Might it be better to be running something in-house?
  • Is a programme of coaching or mentoring support more fit for purpose?
  • Is there an on-line or open learning solution available?

Then, of course, there is that key resource question: Which approach will be most cost-effective – both in terms of monetary and time costs?

3. What difference did it make?

Every year huge sums are spent on training and developing our workforces yet very little time and effort is put into establishing how effective the activity has been. Granted, it is sometimes a hard nut to crack, but how can we tell whether it was money well spent without at least trying to understand the impact it has had on the individuals concerned and indeed on the performance of the company?

Carefully chosen evaluation questions shortly after the training can give an immediate impression – but checking it out again after a few months is likely to be even more illuminating. Tying the impact assessment into Performance Appraisal discussions helps to keep learning and development at the forefront of people's minds and completes the circle back to company and individual objectives.

Article by Tony Sacco of In Train Solutions and Cate Clegg of Cate Clegg Training.

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