Second opinions

05/27/2020

What's the best way to manage training needs?



Peter Nixon, Founder, Potential Dialogue Institute and an Institute member

Training today is completely different from what it was when I completed my master’s degree in training and organization development years ago. In the early era of training, employees completed a training needs analysis, then the human resources (HR) department consolidated the results and sourced trainers to help upskill the staff. 

With the rise of interactive meeting software like Zoom, the world of training is changing. I call it “fourth generation training,” and it’s possibly the best era yet. 

A change was needed because the common reaction to traditional online learning was boredom. Now, managers have the opportunity to provide engaging virtual training to staff. For example, with Zoom, we can run interactive live sessions using breakout rooms, polling, chat functions, word clouds, surveys and all sorts of other apps, by using shared screens, and dual cameras to make training as engaging and interactive as possible, just short of actually being in-person. I have fallen in love with the newest technologies that allow me to transition from great face-to-face in-person training to great face-to-face online training.

I am also working with various training needs assessment providers who themselves are investing in leading edge technology to replace their previous online assessments, which now look completely out of date. Today, respondents get personalized feedback based specifically on their answers and tailored feedback based on the results of their colleagues in various project teams. This new technology extends the learning from the individual to the team, and provides expert trainers like me with additional insights to help organizations faster, at less cost and anywhere in the world, better than ever before.

Of course, before these virtual training sessions take place, HR and talent managers responsible for training need to know what skills and competencies the organization needs and which trainers or subject matter experts are best suited to fulfil these needs in a rapidly changing landscape. Case in point is one of my clients needing blockchain business development skills and the leading provider being a fintech lab in Singapore. 

Trainers who have mastered content after years of dedication would do better than others in reading the audience and changing what they are doing if things are not working. I chose to become a subject matter expert and international trainer and author, and I am pleased that my clients have responded well to my efforts.

Companies today don’t only need to know what their latest training needs are, but also who can fulfil these needs anywhere in the world. How do you do this? The solution is in the dialogue.  


“Companies today don’t only need to know what their latest training needs are, but also who can fulfil these needs anywhere in the world.”


Dr Lolita Edralin, Professor of Practice (Accounting), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and an Institute member

Throughout my corporate life before joining academia, I always advised my staff to look for opportunities outside of the organization, not because I want them to leave, but because I want them to be competitive both internally and externally. Striving for promotion within the organization is not enough. We need to set ourselves up to be relevant and to know what is going on in the outside world. This also means that we should not stop learning. But how?

The Internet is a rich source of knowledge. Just-in-time self-learning is a fact of life. For example, most people do not attend advanced Excel training classes. If you need to create macros, do pivot tables, handle VLOOKUP or other Excel functions, you can learn from YouTube or other Internet sources and apply them immediately to your tasks. Knowledge on the latest buzz words such as big data, blockchain, machine learning or Python can be gained without the need to attend seminars or courses. This is the benefit of targeted learning – learning the things you need to know now. 

What if “you don’t know what you don’t know?” For example, if you are working with a big data set in Excel for the first time, you may not even know the existence of terms such as pivot table, VLOOKUP, INDEX or keyboard shortcuts to search for them on the Internet. With enough persistence and curiosity, you would eventually learn these and more by searching keywords like “advanced Excel functions” or “manage large data sets in Excel.” 

Does it mean that there is no need for formal education anymore? I believe that getting formal education like continuing professional development courses and advanced studies such as master’s or doctor of business administration can help provide the discipline and structure that Internet searches and self-study cannot. It also provides the confidence and certification for career progression. 

However, before you commit to longer term advanced programmes, you need to evaluate the trade-offs in terms of time and money. My advice to potential candidates who are deciding whether to proceed with further studying is this: Time does not stop. Two or three years from now, when you look back after gaining an MBA/DBA or something else, would you be able to say that you made the best use of that time?


“Before you commit to longer term advanced programmes, you need to evaluate the trade-offs in terms of time and money.”


Amy Leung, Director of Technical and Training, BDO and an Institute member

Leading and developing is important in an ever-changing world, and especially in our profession. Hence, developing a learning and development plan can help you to manage your training in an effective way because it can act as a roadmap for you to monitor and plan your learning path. In developing your plan, you should ask yourself the four "whats":

You should start by asking yourself “What do you want to achieve?” By writing down your personal aspirations, career goals, current and future job and profession requirements, you will first identify the specific competencies (skills, knowledge, behaviours and attitudes etc.) required.

Based on the competencies required, you will then ask “What are you now?” to assess the “competencies gap” and identify what competencies and attitudes that need to be developed and mastered in order to achieve your objectives. This can be done not only by identifying areas for improvement, but also by getting feedback from your friends, colleagues, boss and even your clients to accurately gauge your learning and development needs.

This assessment should be reviewed on a regular basis by taking into account any changes in your role, organization, profession and business environment.

Based on the needs identified, you should ask “What are the options available to achieve my expected learning outcomes?” As there are a wide range of learning formats (e.g. classroom training, virtual, on-the-job, reading journals etc.), you have to consider your preferred learning format to decide the learning activities to undertake in order to achieve your expected learning outcomes. When deciding on the learning format, you should consider the types and complexity of skills or knowledge to be acquired and the appropriate ways to learn them; the timeliness of training needed, how long it will take to develop the skill and when you would need it by; whether you can maintain your drive and motivation; and your budget and resources.

To bring learning to awareness and to help with retention and regular use of what you have learned, you need to ask yourself “What are the next steps going forward?” Incorporate a next step plan in your learning and development plan by noting down a reflection on what you have learned; how to apply what you’ve learned to your daily life or work (how can I use it or apply it again?); and whether your objectives have been achieved.


Effective learning results in a return of value to you that is greater than the resources you invest.


“In developing your plan, you should ask yourself the four 'whats.'”