Need for skill based training in the corporate world

Last Updated : 04 May 2010, 13:54 IST
Last Updated : 04 May 2010, 13:54 IST

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Training employees at the time of their joining the organisation is almost mandatory nowadays, specifically in certain sectors like ITES, IT, retail and other service sectors. Take the manufacturing sector, for instance, where skill based training is compulsory for all new hands.

However, a clear solution is yet to be found on the debate about whether imparting training to employees who are already working is relevant and assessment of the return on investments on such expenses has yet to be understood. Some feel that spending a huge amount on training is a waste of resources, either because it does not provide a solution to the problem or the employee will not be in a position to use or implement the training.

Organisations will willingly spend on training provided a return on investment is clearly seen or if it directly addresses a business need. In the absence of this, most organisations hesitate to invest time and money on training and thus it never becomes strategic part of the business. When the training is not part of the mainstream activity, it will get a secondary treatment. 

In a BPO, an employee has to undergo initial training in various spheres like language, accent, product knowledge and technology. Training is an ongoing process for them and they are continually being briefed on product updates and new technology. In companies which are highly technology driven, training is continuous and  directly related to business needs. But in other industries, everyone agrees that training is important, but it is yet to be looked at as a mainstream function in both private and public sector companies.

Each  organisation approaches training very differently. The reason is that no single methodology or procedure is adopted in conducting training to employees in business organisations. To take an example,  simple programmes like time management, communication skills, team building skills, supervisory development will be designed in several ways and different methods are adopted while conducting the programme.

Each trainer will deliver the same programme in a different method, the content changes, number of days varies and so on.  Whenever there is a financial difficulty, the management will do a cost-cutting exercise quickly and training will appear topmost in the list of items to be targeted. This happens in the form of either reduction in the budget or banning all types of training programmes. No questions are asked, everyone will follow the path or nod their heads, and training will take a back seat. Why do such things occur? 

Steps before training

Training needs assessment has to be done systematically. The company should develop a personal development plan and link the training investment directly in order to to bring down the cost, reduce the cycle time, enhance customer satisfaction and finally link business results. This is the time to sit back and take a stock of training programmes conducted which are held in the past without doing training needs assessment. A company should assess the results and calculate the return on investment from such programmes. The outcome of such an exercise may bring shocking information and question the accountability of all such persons who are involved in training. Prudently, all training programmes should be imparted only after conducting training needs assessment, and develop a personal development plan for  each employee. More importantly, one should communicate the evaluation process to all participants which will be followed after the training programme and make them understand their responsibilities to bring out the desired results.

Why needs assessment?

Most organisations are keen to remove deficiency both in production or in services. A deficiency is a performance that does not meet the desired standards. It means that there is a prescribed way of doing a task and that variance is creating a problem. Allowing deficiency will never improve the productivity of an organisation. Training needs assessment is a method to identify what training should be provided to management personnel and employees to enhance their skills and productivity. It focuses on identifying the needs as opposed to desire or wants. Training needs assessment is the process of collecting information from individuals or the department about the needs that could be met by conducting training. It is very essential to assess the participants prior to the beginning of a training programme. Three major reasons to meet the participants are: it helps to determine the exact training content, it allows the trainers to obtain case studies and to develop the rapport with the participants.

Assessments can be conducted formally by meeting with managers, employees, conducting surveys and group meetings, obtaining data from performance assessment of employees and reviewing the company strategies. Why, who, how, what and when are the common analysis terms to be used while conducting training needs assessment.
Who is to be involved: Involve all parties to solve the deficiency. Conduct a target population analysis to learn as much as possible about those involved in the deficiency and customise a training programme which will meets their interests.

 A training need assessment can help to determine whether training is the appropriate solution to a performance deficiency or to enhance the customer satisfaction?  Training programmes may enhance employee’s knowledge, skills and change attitude, but it should be seen whether such programmes will help to resolve a deficiency? Most often trainers are asked to conduct training without conducting needs assessment. The managers may take a judgment that a particular training course will exactly meets the training needs. Few trainers also decide what they want to teach without sufficient regard for what the target population needs to learn. Whether such programmes will be evaluated and linked to the bottom line is the million dollar question. 

As a conclusion we see that before deciding to conduct training, at the time of training needs assessment always involve all the stake holders such as managers, supervisors, target population and trainers. Clearly communicate the objectives and benefits to them to participate in the needs assessment process. The training programmes conducted based on needs assessment will definitely add value to the individual and organisation. Once this is achieved, training will fall in the mainstream of any business.

Bhima Rao is a Senior HR Professional.

Published 04 May 2010, 13:53 IST

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