The Value of Formal Training in Your Organization

 

What does it mean to be a learning organization?

In this extremely competitive business era, a company’s greatest danger lies in becoming stagnant, in failing to adapt to changing circumstances or adjusting to new challenges. A learning organization is what every organization should strive to be: committed to constantly learning, growing and improving. Why would you take this very high-level view of formal learning and build it into YOUR organization, one that’s likely already pretty busy with the work of being in business? 

Let us count the ways:

FORMAL LEARNING IS EASIER TO MEASURE

Formal training has long been a valued and reliable source of learning. While some have questioned the effectiveness of traditional training methods, others have questioned the effectiveness of informal or needs-based training. In the end, it depends on context.

FORMAL LEARNING CAN BE EASIER TO MANAGE

Informal training is flexible and often spontaneous, but not structured. Research tells us that over 70% of learning on the job occurs informally. But, companies have little control over the topics and presentation of material in informal training. While informal training has its place, formal training is an established and trusted way for employees to learn new skills and materials for their job. The best approach, according to analyst Josh Bersin, is a combination:

“Our research shows that companies which adopt “formalized informal learning” programs (like coaching, on-demand training, and performance support tools) outperform those that focus on formal training by 3 to 1. In these companies the corporate training team doesn’t just train people, it puts in place content and programs to help employees quickly learn on the job.”

 

Tweet This: While over 70% of #learning on the job happens informally, you still need structure, like this:

 

FORMAL LEARNING PROGRAMS ARE COMPETITIVE

Formal learning programs are, in general, quite structured, and usually have a developed system of teaching content. The structure of formal training is perfect for a company to determine standards of what will be taught and presented, and it creates consistency in material and knowledge throughout the company or department. Formal training can be classroom based, or can take the forms of webinars, screen-sharing sessions, or interactive live web events. What does this mean for your company? It means you can create a formal learning program in addition to informal learning opportunities and provide your employees a buffet of learning opportunities. And with expenditures on learning per employee rising, while top performers insist on solid training opportunities for retention, it’s a smart bet to impact your turnover rates as well as take on the competition.

Tweet This: Why you should provide employees with a buffet of learning opportunities…and how:

When employees go through formal training, regardless of the method, they are at least exposed to a specific set of curriculum materials intended to teach them things they need to know about how to do their jobs. For some, that is enough. The training is done and, theoretically, the employees have grasped and understood all the concepts, and will be applying them to their work.

According to an article on Harvard Business Review, learning is less about following a pattern set by others and more about creating your own internal learning culture, and then acting on it:

Organizations that do pass the definitional test—Honda, Corning, and General Electric come quickly to mind—have, by contrast, become adept at translating new knowledge into new ways of behaving. These companies actively manage the learning process to ensure that it occurs by design rather than by chance. Distinctive policies and practices are responsible for their success; they form the building blocks of learning organizations.

FORMAL LEARNING CAN BE INTEGRATED WITH PERFORMANCE

But can you really tell if the training worked? If it sunk in? Some employees may have understood everything they were taught while others may have spent their time doodling or texting. This is where performance management should be applied in a specific and measurable way to prove if the training was worth it. Learning should be integrated with performance reviews for maximum employee development.

Take the case of Bill, a reliable and decently productive employee for an engineering firm. He recently went through a department-wide training class on a new analysis system that will allow employees to enter and analyze engineering specifications twice as fast. His management team, however, wanted to make sure the training was worth it, so they decided to integrate performance management.

With accurate performance management systems, formal training can be measured and appraised for its effectiveness. Targeted performance reviews can test if employees who have been through the training are implementing what they were taught, are more productive, and are meeting designated goals. Rather than using a multiple choice test, formal training should be tested through measurable productivity goals. Goals based on the training can be set for the entire company, the department, or just for the individual, and the progress towards those goals can be tracked.

Tweet This: How to test the effectiveness of your training program:

Management hopes Bill, and all the employees who undertook the new training, will implement their new skills for greater productivity. They use their performance management system to set individual goals for productivity.

FORMAL LEARNING ALLOWS FEEDBACK FROM COLLEAGUES

360 degree feedback systems should also play a role in complementing formal training. By opening a channel of feedback between managers who expect training to be implemented, and employees trying to apply what they have learned, the opportunities to learn continue, and the training can be furthered. Through feedback surveys, managers can find out if employees understood their training and are ready to use it in their work.

Bill is sent a feedback survey with questions about how well he understands the new training, and how he implements the training. He does have a few questions about a certain aspect of the new process, which he is able to communicate to his manager, who is then able to provide him with more clarification.

By carefully monitoring performance, other areas that employees can improve are more easily revealed. Performance appraisals can then be used to recommend areas of further training employees should undergo. You can create targeted development plans for your employees based on performance reviews.

A few weeks after the training sessions, Bill’s performance reviews show that he has been using the new process and has submitted nearly two times more analysis reports than he usually submits. Through surveys that were sent out, Bill revealed that he does not have a complete understanding of one of the software programs the engineering firm uses, and could use some additional training in that. Management is able to assign Bill some additional training in the software, but can confirm that the initial training was effective, and they congratulate Bill on his improved performance.

Formal training has its place as an effective and reliable source of further training and employee growth, but its effectiveness is magnified when paired with efficient and targeted performance review. A true learning organization will surely want to make the most of its training and improve and learn as much as possible from the opportunity. Employees will also appreciate the effort as 89% of employees think it’s important for their employer to support their learning and development. Training and performance management should never be kept separate, but should always be in balance.

Becoming a learning organization doesn’t happen overnight and it may take some time to see some of the benefits listed above. Save time and headaches by working with a solution that tracks performance management, reviews and appraisals and learning management in one simple, intuitive dashboard. 

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