Much of the literature on best practices in human resources focuses on improving recruitment and retention levels. Given the high cost of turnover, it is natural that recruitment and retention are afforded such attention.
It is unfortunate, however, that less attention is given to the issue of developing your high performing employees. Employees are a key asset in any organization, and investments in training can make them even more valuable.
Your firm will be able to accomplish more as employees become more productive.
Plus, employees who receive training are reminded in a tangible way that the company values them and is investing in their careers. This leads to improved satisfaction and higher retention rates, which is a big win.
Best of all, training programs prepare employees to move to supervisory and management roles, relieving HR of the need to fill these critical positions from outside the company. When you grow your own next generation of management, you can be sure they embody corporate culture and will manage others according to your firm’s values.
Studies show that investments in employee training pay for themselves in the short term and the long term.
1. Setting Goals and Priorities
The first step in creating a training program for high-potential employees is to determine what you would like to achieve. Some training programs are intended to improve competence at employees’ current jobs, while others introduce higher-level perspectives and techniques that prepare employees to move into management or supervisory roles.
Would you like to improve manufacturing efficiency? Reduce defects? Improve compliance with standards or regulatory rules? Each of these goals – and there are potentially hundreds or thousands of others – might lead to a different kind of training program. To avoid the ready-fire-aim syndrome, it’s best to be clear on what you want to accomplish before you plan the program.
2. Selecting the Audience
Once you have determined what you want to accomplish, it’s time to identify who should receive the training. Sometimes you want to train everyone in a specific cohort or work group. For example, diversity-sensitivity training is for everyone in the company.
You might also provide specific training to smaller groups, or even individuals. Workers who are identified as promising by management can be offered one-on-one training or coaching to prepare them to assume more responsibility at work. The opportunity to rise through the ranks and earn more money on the job are usually enough to motivate employees to work hard at whatever tasks the trainer assigns.
3. Be Accountable
For generations, managers have lived by the truth that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.” The supposed father of that dictum, management expert W. Edwards Deming, actually exempted employee training programs from that rule. He said that training 10 employees might not produce results that are measurable in any quantifiable way. Even if their performance improves or they go on to rise through management ranks, you can’t be certain that the training program was the cause. One should invest in training anyway, Demings said. The logical argument that better-trained employees lead to better results for the company is sufficiently strong to overcome the lack of tangible evidence.
Nonetheless, it makes sense to set some goals for your training program. If you are looking to familiarize a workgroup with a new piece of production machinery or a new process, you can test their competence before and after training. This testing can help you discover flaws in your training program and can serve as justification for corporate investment in further training.
4. Discover Who Needs Training
Sometimes remedial training is in order. In customer service, for example, it might make sense to use sales data or customer ratings to divide employees into above-average, average, and below-average performers. You can focus on training the below-average employees, bringing their work up to the standard set by their colleagues. Sales data and customer ratings can confirm that your training had the desired effect.
Conversely, you might want to focus training efforts specifically on your best performers, the workers who show the most potential to grow within the company.
Ideally, of course, all employees receive training that is appropriate to their management potential and current performance. Given the realities of corporate budgets, however, you are not likely to be given such a broad training mandate. Work with top management to set goals and craft training programs to achieve them.
5. Implementing the Program
Once you have set a goal for your training program and identified who will receive training, it is time to decide how the training will be conducted. Some companies have the luxury of bringing in professional trainers who specialize in teaching skills and competence to corporate employees. For the rest of us, home-grown programs are the norm.
Read about best practices in training programs with goals similar to your own. Consider whether you want to implement the program set setting up a classroom, by sending employees to a community college or university program, through in-house coaching and mentoring, via online learning, with on-the-job training, or in other ways. Each option has a different cost and each is better for increasing certain kinds of competency.
6. Get Approval
Assuming you have involved corporate management in helping to set the goals for the training program, you should have little trouble receiving financial support for the program you have planned. Remember that people tend to support what they help to create, so it’s best to make your company’s financial decision-makers feel that their input has been critical in determining the details of your proposed program.
Your proposal should focus on projected benefits of the training program. Remember that not all training “sticks.” Stuff happens. It’s better to under-promise when it comes to results and deliver happy surprises later when the program exceeds expectations.
7. Measure, Measure, Measure
After the training is over, and at least once during the program, survey employees to find out about their experience. Is information being presented too quickly to absorb or too slowly to maintain interest? Is the material too advanced or too basic? Is it relevant to their work?
Gather statistics from the workplace too. Is productivity up? Defect rates down? Customers happier? Sales up? These figures are essentially not only to justify future investments in more training, but to ensure that the program you chose on is meeting expectations.
8. Remember the Big Picture
While employee training programs can boost productivity and work quality, that is not their only benefit. Employees who are given opportunities to train and learn on the job are more loyal. Retention rates rise, reducing the need to conduct frequent expensive recruitment activities. Higher retention and job-satisfaction rates mean maximum benefits for your company – and they are signs that your efforts in training employees were all worthwhile.
Are there any other critical aspects that go into creating a development plan for HIPOs? Share with us in your comments.
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