Training is essential to keep project managers at the top of their game. But to ensure measurable outcomes, treat your training programme as you would a project.
The latest UK Commission for Employment and Skills survey shows that employers are continuing to invest in training and development. On average, 62 per cent of the workforce has undertaken training, equating to £42.9bn of employer expenditure – an average of £2,550 per person. Increasing numbers of employees are being trained, and a significant amount is being spent on training by employers looking to gain a competitive edge.
Many project management firms report that the market is increasingly dictating the price of goods and services, so the route to profitability and competitive advantage lies in internal productivity and efficiency – driven by high-performing and qualified staff.
However, it is not enough for firms to engage in training for training’s sake. In order to maximise return on investment (ROI), it must be the right training, at the right time, for the right people. Here are 10 key tips to implement.
1. Use training as a strategic business tool
All too often, training is employed as a remedy to strengthen weaknesses in a team, rather than as a strategic part of organisational development. As Investors in People has stated, aligning employees’ skills and development areas with an organisation’s strategy will boost the overall performance of a business.
2. Have clear organisational goals in mind
An organisation should always ask itself what its goals for training are, and what benefit it will receive from improving knowledge and skills and creating behavioural change in the workforce. These aims and goals should be explicitly communicated to employees so that they understand what is expected of them before, during and after the training. Explaining the bigger picture will encourage them to align with the overall vision of the business.
3. Identify skills gaps accurately
Don’t be afraid to engage external support to help identify gaps and potential interventions. An external consultant will be able to look at business needs objectively and identify skills gaps. It is often difficult to see past the person in real need of further support.
4. Ask your project team to think about what it wants from the training
Establishing organisational goals is essential, but it’s also important that your team understands the value of training from an individual and personal perspective. Ask the team to think about what the training might involve, and what each member wants to gain from it. A useful exercise is to encourage your project team members to write down questions for themselves about the training beforehand, and challenge them to answer them by the end of the course.
5. Create a clear and focused environment
We all have busy lives and multiple tasks to complete in the working day, but in order for your team members to get the most of out of a training programme, they must be completely focused and free from other distractions. Create a timeline of goals and deadlines in the lead-up to the training and prepare them to work hard to clear their schedules in advance. A proactive and focused approach to training will ensure your team reaches its full potential throughout the programme.
6. Ensure that the training actually meets the organisation's needs
Ensure that the aims of the training course or intervention are personalised to what you, as a project and programme management firm, need. Accepting a training programme that has been generically created for all companies is unlikely to target skills gaps and improve performance in a project management team. Request a bespoke consultation and insist on a recommended plan of action that is tailored to fit your organisation and provide the outcomes you need.
7. Evaluate job behaviour before and after training
It is very important to evaluate job behaviour before and after training to see exactly what impact it has made. And don’t stop there. Continue to monitor change to ensure your training investment has longevity. Post-training evaluation sheets are simply not enough. A good training provider will work with you to evaluate ROI effectively.
8. Hire the right training partner
When considering a training provider, it is essential that you identify the outcomes you want to achieve from the outset. In the early stages, ensure the provider takes the time to understand your business and its objectives before proposing any interventions. Once it is clear on your goals, it should be able to demonstrate how its programme will help you achieve them. A good training provider will give you advice and support that will maximise the transfer of learning back into the workplace, resulting in sustainable developments and improved business results.
9. Aim to foster personal and professional development
Project management organisations that promote and foster a culture of learning will see a much greater return on training investment, along with vast improvements in project managers’ performance.
To achieve this, you should aim to develop the following:
- Top-down leadership behaviour that provides positive reinforcement and reward for all learning, both formal and informal.
- Systematic processes and practices that promote learning and its positive application in the workplace.
- A supportive environment where employees feel safe and have time to practise and reflect without the fear of failure or mistakes.
- A method of aligning individual learning goals and interventions with organisational objectives, so that employees can recognise how they fit into the bigger picture.
10. Ensure your project managers are consistently engaged
Lack of motivation or even boredom can be the downfall of a potentially effective training programme. Make sure your project team is fully engaged and focused throughout the duration of the training. If something isn’t working, or your team is losing concentration, communicate this with your training provider. Positive, professional providers will be flexible with their programme, and if your team is not responding well to an aspect of the training, the provider is obliged to adapt its style or delivery. Programmes should be continually improved and adapted to create the best results.
As with a project, you should approach a training programme by first establishing your objectives and defining exactly what you are looking to achieve.
Once you are clear on these key elements, you will need to decide on the best methods of training to suit your organisation and team. The greatest ROI will be achieved from training that is well planned, organised and systematically controlled, while supporting fresh thinking and innovation. Upon completion, the training should always be evaluated and measured.
This blog first appeared as an article in the Spring edition of Project Journal.