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The Marrow of the Bone

Tuesday, August 16, 2016 | Category :
    • Leadership
    • Avo Vision

There’s a simple line item on your annual budget that tends to be one of the most contentious in budget wrangling discussions. The value, the perceived worth (not the same as value), the time investment, the effort and so on. But training is not only one of the most important lines on that annual budget, it is one that you simply MUST make work – properly – for the value it can and will add to your business!

For some companies it’s a tick to ensure that they gain the maximum number of BEE points possible from investing in staff development. For others it’s a useful thing to write off to tax with a vague nod at occasionally benefitting some of the staff. Whereas at Avocado Vision, we believe it’s an inherent part of the DNA for any successful company.

When sitting under the Avo tree in our garden sipping…um…tea (ahem) one recent Friday afternoon one of our delectable Avos related the following story.

“Client X spent about 3 months working internally to decide on various training and personal development plans with their teams. When they engaged with their internal training teams, they agreed upon goals, formats and all the other important factors, and were off and away. The company spent a small fortune over the next few months training and taking people away from work time so that they could attend workshops. When they did a re-visit and assessment 3 months after the training ended, they had a dismal retention rate and the training was ultimately branded as a wasted exercise”. Tracy Scott, one of our long-time trainers, commented that one of the biggest issues is that training is treated as an event and not an ongoing  process. Whether that event is a one day affair or a two week affair it tends to be looked at in isolation.

Naturally the team got into a heated discussion about what companies should and could be doing to assist their employees get the most out of training, and what they should be communicating to their staff regarding their training, and we thought we’d  share some of those ideas with you here.

Just like the Boy Scouts say, employees have to be prepared! This means that as someone who has been selected to attend training you need to put in the time to understand what the training is all about. You need to do a little research on the content so that you can formulate intelligent thinking, ideas and questions around the concepts that will be covered at the training, and you need to not do this the morning that training starts! Give yourself time to understand what you are reading about, and then formulate your own thoughts and questions. Your trainer is ideally suited to answer them!

We get that some bright spark from HR has decided you need to attend the training, and you may not feel like you need to be there, that your schedule is too busy or any of a hundred other reasons for you not to attend. But you are going to be there, so you had better make the most of it! One of the ways in which to do this is to set goals. What do you expect to get out of the training? How will you implement the learnings? What concepts would you like to clarify? This goes for the erstwhile manager as well. Tracey recommends that the management team assess what their goals and expectations are before, during and after the training. What will they be doing to ensure that the learnings are uncalculated into the thinking of the organisation? “This may include ensuring that the team have the time to do peer coaching, case studies, presentations on their learning or any of a hundred other things to check and confirm that the learning has taken root”. 

Dedicating the time to train is never easy when you work in a busy corporate environment. But if you are going to be in the room, be in the room wholeheartedly. Put an out of office on your email stating that you will only be checking email once a day, maybe at lunch time, and turn off your notifications. All of them! Your phone is one of the biggest distractions during training time. Who wouldn’t rather aimlessly scroll through their Twitter feed if it meant not having to engage their brain with some intelligent thought processing! Dedicating the time includes post training learning as well, and the structures that management put in place to ensure that their teams are actually learning.

You’ve probably read a lot on this next point, but do you know how to actively listen? Part of successful learning is to become a part of the conversation. Clarifying points, asking questions and yes, even arguing with the trainer (or discussing as some of our feisty learners like to phrase it). Actively listening is a vital component of being able to receive information, process and understand it and then store or question as needed.

Remember at school where we were all herded into classrooms and made to recite things by rote over and over again in order to get it into our heads? Well real learning, (and we can’t emphasize this enough), is nothing like that! You need to intentionally learn. This means understanding how you learn best (are you a kinetic learner who needs movement to understand concepts, or are you a visual learner, who needs see the trainer), and taking steps to ensure that you are able to learn that way. We have seen audio learners record parts of the training, kinetic learners sitting on bouncy balls or doodling while being trained, visual learners using bright, varied highlighters all over their notes and sometimes even recording training sessions so that they could watch the training again.  

You’ve heard the saying “don’t take it personally”, well training is the complete opposite of that. You have to make it personal. You need to relate the course-work being communicated to your everyday experience of your role and tasks. Without bringing it home to yourself in this fashion, not only will you battle to see the value of the training, but it becomes almost impossible to embed it into our memory because it ceases to be relevant. Managers can assist by perusing course material and discussing concepts which are directly relatable to the activities of their team members.

In order to solidify the learning it is imperative that post training work is completed. This can take many forms. It could be a test, practical work, an assessment by the trainer or manager it really is heavily dependent on the role, learning and person but without the kind of follow up the training will exist in a vacuum and once again will cease to have relevance to the individual. Tracy recommends peer coaching as one of the most effective ways to ensure effectivity of training. This can have many facets but the simplest and easiest is to a ten minute active learning session a day, where your peer buddy and you get together, talk through a concept and check your understanding and learning. Simple, easy and quick!

One last word. Your employer can put every support to make your learning path worthwhile. But death by evaluation won’t work unless you take the training to heart and choose to learn. Commit and make it an inherent part of your journey. 


Avocado Vision is proud to be a BEE Level 2 Value Added Supplier and is fully accredited with ETDP SETA.

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