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Best Training Practices
Will Kenny
3927 York Ave N
Robbinsdale, MN 55422

The True Currency of
Corporate Training

employee time is the biggest challenge to effective training

(reprinted from The Training Tipsheet)

Companies tend to view training as a cost of doing business, and many training departments have been struggling with reduced budgets and smaller staffs since the economy tanked. If you run the training function for an organization, you are accustomed to comparing the cost of doing "this" to the cost of offering "that," to allocating your available resources to a prioritized list of training goals.

But the other departments you serve with your training expertise typically do not assess the cost of what you offer directly in dollars. Oh, sure, during the annual budgeting process, they may mutter about the costs of the training function.

Most of them do not see invoices for individual courses. And few of them choose Course A rather than Course B for their staff because the former will "cost" them less, in real money.

The real cost hurdle you have to overcome, again and again, is employees' time. Very simply, you can estimate the value of your training to your "customers" by the amount of employee time they are willing to "spend" to get it.

Many training professionals are more or less aware of this fact, but it is rarely expressed. Training staff experience it as a frustration, as they are constantly challenged to deliver their training while taking less and less employee time.

And in some organizations, frankly, cheap and rapid delivery becomes the only measure of training "effectiveness." Everything moves on-line, and how quickly an employee completes a course becomes much more important than whether the course actually changes that employee's behavior on the job.

I believe we often avoid this confrontation over employee time, and we do so because we are afraid we are going to lose the argument. We fear that we cannot make a convincing case that taking more of an employee's time for training will deliver a benefit to the company.

What would happen if we brought this issue out into the open? Where would it lead if we openly discussed the notion that the truest reflection of how much our internal clients value any particular bit of training is the willingness of the trainees' supervisors to give over employee time for the training activity?

There would be some losses, especially early in the game. Sometimes training professionals can see why certain training takes longer than people imagine it should, and those battles will be hard to win.

But there might be some wins. Driving clients to "pay for" their training in the currency of employee time could lead them to make, and share, more open and explicit decisions about the value of the training they receive. I am fairly sure that the priorities assigned to different training activities, by the internal clients, would be much more accurate under this system. And the results might well be more valuable to the organization as a whole.

It is more comfortable, I know, not to shake things up, to indulge in the luxury of muttering amongst ourselves about the short-sightedness of our clients, their failure to see "investment" instead of "cost," their impatience.

It takes a good deal of courage to center the conversation around training on the true currency of corporate training. And it will be a bumpy ride at first, as both training provider and internal client learn to deal openly with what has secretly been underlying training and negotiations about training all along.

But try it, and stick with it, and you might be surprised to discover how little you miss working in an environment where you pretend to talk about one kind of cost, but really base decisions on another. A little light, a little fresh air, on this subject of how clients value your services can lead to better decisions by, and better outcomes for, everyone.

© 2011 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny

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