Employee Training and Development

Training and Development
Training and development is the responsibility of managers. Like in the articles relating to recruitment and selection there is a partnership to be struck with human resource and training professionals. However, training should not be imposed by the latter on to the former.

The exception to this is where any training is a compulsory requirement, such as health and safety. Human resource generalists cannot, and should not be expected to know what training the, say, Central Purchasing department require. They are not experts on procurement. That is the manager's domain.
The nub of training is to know what you want from your staff, see how they measure up to this, identify any gaps, and finally provide solutions for plugging those gaps. The most common differentiation between training and development is that the former is for the present, and the latter is for the future. The nub remains the same, however. Take a high performing member of staff who would make a suitable team leader, the development gaps are between where they are now as an operative and where you want them to be in the future. In other words, developing team leader skills.

Reasons for training

These may seem obvious, but it is important to be clear that training is for a purpose. It might be as simple as improving performance and correcting errors. It might be to increase the flexibility of the workforce so that they are better able to cover for one another's absences. Commonly, it is driven by changes to working practices, systems, and the like. New product knowledge may be required.

Training should be an ongoing process starting with induction, continuing through probation, and then beyond, into the constantly monitoring of the need for improvement. At all times, there should be a justifiable reason for the training to take place.

Identifying needs

There are a number of ways in which training requirements can be identified. Simple workplace observation and the more formal appraisal process are the most common means. Listen, too, to both customer comments and needs identified by the staff themselves.

As stated above, any changes to the work carried out will need to be addressed. Managers should be constantly looking to identify any gaps in performance, and closing those gaps. A key element in a manager's remit is enabling staff to do their job well. Training is central to that.


Formal training courses are often seen as the solution and they have their part to play. They would certainly be of value for professional and technical training, particularly where formal qualifications are required. Increasingly, in certain occupational sectors, individuals have to demonstrate a certain number of hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD). This is normally linked to maintaining membership of professional bodies. Additionally, where a group of people have the same need a course may be the best way forward. In these instances, human resource experts can, and should be used for sourcing appropriate programmes.

For much of the day-to-day and ongoing training, the manager has a direct role to play. This will ordinarily come under the blanket terminology of 'coaching and mentoring'. It is not uncommon for managers to identify other staff members who can perform these roles within the team.

Coaching and Mentoring

Whilst these are branches of the same family tree there are slight differences between the two, and for that reason they will be looked at separately here. The two can, however, operate in tandem.

Coaching is where training is carried out on a one-to-one basis. It is sometimes referred to as 'on-the-job' training. Once the need has been established (see above) a plan needs to be put in place. The manager needs to think about how best to carry out the training, as well as setting aside the necessary time for it to take place.

Key elements of planning and delivering training are as follows. Set clear objectives, in other words, what do you expect to achieve as a result of the training? For example, 'At the end of the session Mary will be aware of three approaches for dealing with unhappy customers'. Whatever is to be trained needs to be broken down into manageable sized pieces. Remember, what is easy for you is new to them. Finally, showing or telling them is not how they learn. It is only part of it, and they need to do it themselves before it actually sinks in. You can tell a child 'Don't put your fingers in the fire' as many times as you like, but when do they learn it?

Mentoring again tends to take place on a one-to-one basis. It is, however, slightly different in as much as it does not really involve formal tuition as such. It is about providing opportunities and access to gain new skills in a supportive, protective environment. The fact that the word mentor comes from Greek mythology explains much about a mentor's role. When Ulysses was setting off on his voyages of discovery, he put his son in the care of his best friend to nurture him and develop him in his absence. His friend was called Mentor.
Training and development is a continuous process. It should be led by the manager with appropriate intervention from human resource people. It is not an option. As the old saying goes 'If you think training is expensive, try ignorance'.

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