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Training: Time Waster or Miracle Maker?

Jul 28, 2008
Do you find that your team has more responsibilities, tighter deadlines, later quit times, and fewer free weekends?

Employees today, despite time-saving devices, seem to work harder and longer than 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and maybe even last month! What about the number of times you need to do a few hours of work on a holiday--just to stay caught up?

Despite the apparent need for additional work hours, if you are a corporate employee, chances are you have also participated in some sort of training this year, and I don't mean fire drill practice.

These trainings may take several hours or several days, and could be on-site or away from the office. Add the travel time, you're spending many hours on activities other than servicing clients, managing employees, and growing the business.

Is this a good use of time? Well, yes and no.

Let's start with the most common objections to what are called "time wasters" by some employees and managers:

- Employees are forced to attend even if the information to be acquired is not necessary to their position.

- Some employees choose to attend irrelevant programs to avoid work--leaving the undesirable tasks for someone else.

- Insufficient information is given about a workshop or seminar so employees find it difficult to discern whether the content will be useful to them.

- When an employee is working at full capacity, dedicating time to additional education is a personal sacrifice: missed work will need to made up, often after hours.

- Often an attendee is not given any credit or reward for attending.

- While upper management approves the classes, middle management is often dismayed by the waste of hours, and may take it out on the employee. Sometimes they may even need to do the employees' tasks themselves, inciting resentment.

- Often the employee himself is expected to both attend the educational program and get all his work done too.

These seem like convincing arguments to eliminating training during work hours, don't they? But wait. Let's give equal time to those who purchase or teach these trainings, and the employees who appreciate acquiring free education on very relevant subjects.

Here are some benefits to trainings and seminar programs:

- Relevant training adds value. By increasing understanding, promoting efficiency, and challenging the mind with something new, training helps employees remain current and marketable both inside and outside the company, and at no cost to them.

- Appropriate training increases efficiency and ease in doing required tasks, which can ultimately give time back to the employee, improving skills, confidence, and morale.

- Right training, right person, right time: when all three are aligned, both company and employee benefit. The company acknowledges the employee's values and skills, and sets him/her up for continual improvement and future opportunities.

- With good trainers, even the most technical trainings have moments of humor and opportunities to partner with others one has never worked with before. Employees bond in this new situation and learn to work better together.

- Formal or informal coaching relationships may spring up when some find they need help with a part of the training that another employee grasped more easily. This may reach well beyond the day or week of the training.

- Employees leave trainings with new reasons to interact with people they barely knew before, adding cohesiveness to the work force. Sometimes "forced interaction" works beautifully, particularly with shy employees.

- Simply doing something different instead of the familiar routine sparks new thinking and creativity.

Yet training is not perfect. Here are some ideas to add value:

- Consider study/coaching groups or pairs to spark ideas for applying what was learned and encourage participants to hone their expertise.

- Give time off, small bonuses, or prizes to participants, especially those who coach others.

- Thoroughly vet the training before purchasing it. Make sure it really addresses employee needs and desires.

- Be sure that if an employee is scheduled for a training, he is allowed to attend all of it. No interruptions or calling him away to handle a minor emergency. Education works when the employee is allowed to focus and concentrate fully.

- Consider involving some potential users of the training in making the choice of what you'll be offering so genuine needs are met. Early involvement engages interest, acknowledges intelligence, and can perhaps create informal buzz. All of these pique interest and increase participation.

So is training ultimately a boon or bust?

That depends on all the elements put into place long before the trainer opens her manual, clears her throat, and says "Good morning everyone...." 2008 by Wendy Lapidus-Saltz. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Wendy Lapidus-Saltz is a mind coach and trainer in Chicago who believes proper ongoing education can build confidence, awaken curiosity and make a company or employee soar. For more information on her trainings and programs, write her at ILAPSAL@aol.com.
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