tranzition executive recruitment

Training and Development - Maximising the Returns


"I forget what I was taught; I only remember what I've learnt."

Patrick White


"Learning is a process, not an event"
Elliott Masie




To succeed in today’s market, businesses need to recognise, nurture, and harness their most valuable asset – the capacity and capability of their human resources.


The benefits to a business that focuses on the effective training and development of its staff include:


«  improved skills that align with organisational goals and objectives;

«  motivated, adaptable workers who can keep up with changing business needs and market forces;

«  continuous process improvement through innovative work practices;

«  retention and heightened performance of quality staff;

«  greater customer satisfaction due to better products/services;

«  higher profits through improved performance, productivity and quality; and

«  increased market share and opportunities for business growth.


This is the good news… the better news is that training and development needn’t entail expensive courses that take employees away from the business for days at a time (although that is one approach).


There are approaches to training and development to suit every business, every type of worker, and every training need. For example:


«  structured training - a course, run by a professional trainer over one day or a much longer period (as in the case of a degree, diploma or certificate course), for a group of trainees/participants;

«  correspondence education - individual learning through reading books or other written materials on the topic of interest;

«  e-learning - as above, except through electronic delivery mode (via web, email, CD-ROMs, online games/simulations, etc);

«  coaching - supporting and encouraging an individual or team to find their own solution (in itself a valuable learning), rather than just providing them with one;

«  mentoring - like coaching, but usually one-on-one, often with an experienced mentor being partnered with a less experienced mentee for the purposes of providing guidance, direction and inspiration;

«  experiential learning - learning through experiencing, discovery or experimentation (e.g. outdoor education or adventure training);

«  on-the-job training - often the easiest and cheapest of all, requiring just a job to be done and a colleague or supervisor to show you how, and then watch while you try it yourself.


Before selecting the best approach to satisfy your business’s training and development need, you must first

identify that need through the process of training needs analysis, the purpose of which is to determine:


«  the skill level required to perform the job/task effectively,

«  the skill level of the staff concerned, and

«  the gap between the two.


The gap you identify through training needs analysis indicates what your employees need to learn (as opposed to what they need to be taught, which isn’t always the same thing). Often the most effective way to design or select a suitable training program is to work backwards from the desired solution, rather than forwards from the problem, e.g.


If I want to learn how to operate a piece of machinery on an assembly line, so that a quality product results, the best approach might not be to start at the beginning of the line and attempt, through trial and error, to achieve the desired end product. An alternative, and more effective, approach might be to analyse a quality product and work backwards step by step to the beginning of the line (the raw material stage), noting what process logically preceded each step in the product’s transformation.


In the above example, beginning with the desired solution (skill) and working backwards logically should lead you through the optimum (training) process to the problem (training need). By the time you identify your training need, you will therefore already know what your desired training outcome (skill) is, as well as a good strategy to follow to achieve it (the training process).


Although, in reality, a particular skill can be learned through any one of a number of training processes, there is often one of these processes which more quickly and effectively teaches that skill. The challenge for your business is that different people respond in different ways to different approaches – training/development is definitely not a ‘one size fits all’ activity. Therefore, group training will not always result in group learning, which is why any training needs analysis should take into account not just the skill to be learnt, but the needs of individual learners, e.g.


I am a reader - I enjoy reading, comprehending what I read, and visualising it. I can read a novel or textbook and visualise fairly accurately what is described therein.  Training through correspondence education therefore works for me (and that is how I completed my Masters degree). In fact, being hands-on during the initial stages of learning can actually make me feel awkward and uncomfortable, at least until I have properly read the manual!


However, my friend Wendy is not a reader - Wendy is a doer who prefers practicing to reading. Wendy is happy to be hands-on from the beginning, and to read as little as possible. For this reason, Wendy eschews manuals and jumps right in, ready to test her skill (while I am still theorising about mine!). Therefore, Wendy is more comfortable with on-the-job training, simulation, or experiential learning.


A useful approach when providing training and development to a group of staff is to offer it in more than just one format, e.g.


«  provide written or electronic training materials (for those who prefer to read),

«  present the material to the group (for those who prefer to listen),

«  follow up with on-the-job training (for those who prefer to do), and

«  reinforce with coaching or mentoring (for those who prefer individual support and encouragement).


Tailoring training and development to individual staff (or offering multiple approaches) may seem unnecessarily time consuming, but because it is the learning rather than the teaching that is important, shouldn’t your business be doing everything possible to maximise your return on investment?






By Trevor Neville, Principal, and Kirsten Ferguson (Human Resource Management Consultant), TranZition Professional and Executive Recruitment, Level 3 Waterfront Place, 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Email:  Web:

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