Business man Drawing Graph

Training is an important tool in developing employees. This was the view of 96% of the 1,018 managers from MNCs, local companies, SMEs, and government/non-profit sector polled by Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) in October 2014.

This view seems to be upheld by the January 2015 statistics released by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower: in 2014, as compared to previous years, more employees have attended some form of training. They’re also spending longer days in training.

With the Singapore government’s continued push for lifelong learning to increase productivity (and the grants that come with the push), it’s foreseeable that managers will continue to file their staff into the classroom in 2015.

With such a buzz in the corporate training landscape, it may seem that managers are getting people development right. Maybe not. The same nation-wide survey by SIM also revealed some findings about corporate training that may just raise some eyebrows:

  • while managers generally deem training as important, they also doubted its effectiveness
  • of those who feel that training is important, some feel that trainings are not aligned to business needs and priorities
  • others remain skeptical about technology-based training methods such as the use of virtual classrooms or mobile learning.

So what does this mean to training providers, learning and development folks, and business leaders?

For one, it’s important to be clear about learning objectives and desired outcomes. We’ve all heard stories about how some people attend training just to “clock the hours”. Without clearly defined goals and objectives, deliverables or key performance indicators resulting from the training, it’s no wonder some people don’t see the effectiveness of training. You can’t measure what you can’t quantify and you can’t meet expectations if they are not there in the first place.

For training hours to really address your organisation’s bottomline, a holistic approach to people development is needed. Here are some questions you may ask yourself before signing that member of your team up for a training programme:

Think of the big picture

Start with the big picture. Look at where your organisation heading in the next three to five years. What do you think are the foreseeable gaps you would like this person to fill? What kind of knowledge, attitude or skills would be needed by this person to contribute meaningfully to your organisation? Good organisations get their employees well trained to perform their current job functions. Smart organisations train their staff to meet today’s needs and be ready for tomorrow’s demands.

Identify the needs

Whether your plan is to plug a current business gap, or to future-proof your organisation, articulate clearly the needs you want the training meet. The United States Office of Personnel Management has a 3-tier training needs assessment framework to evaluate needs at the organisation, occupational and the individual level. A good needs analysis done is half the battle won.

Best fit, not best price

Just as there are many ways to solve a problem, there are many programmes in the market that may meet your organisation’s needs. Talk to as many vendors as you have time and energy for. Check reviews online. Speak to your contacts in other organisations. The idea is to find a programme in the market that best meets your needs, or have a provider design and customise one for you. Tempting as it may be, don’t go purely on price.

Create a climate of success

When you send someone off to training, know what kind of a climate you need to create back at the workplace in order for the employee to put that training to use. You can’t expect an employee to put her newly gained innovation techniques to use if your organisation just wants everyone to follow set procedures and frown upon new ideas. A climate that allows the new training skills to be applied is as important as the training. And so is creating opportunities for the employee to use what she has just learnt.

Work out deliverables, and communicate expectations

When it comes to post-training evaluation, some organisations go as far as structuring an evaluation process, such as using Kirk Patrick’s Four-Level Training Evaluation Model (Reaction, Learning, Behaviour, Results) – which can be resource consuming. Others prefer to use a proxy, like an increase in sales, or satisfaction ratings captured by customer surveys. Whatever the approach, it’s important that the measurements are fair and achieveable. It’s also crucial to map out the outcomes and communicate that expectation to the employee.

Training will continue to play an integral role in people development and a necessary expense for businesses. How well you plan for training may not save your organisation much, but will surely stretch that investment – and actually translate into something meaningful for your organisation, your clients, and your employees.

(This post first appeared on in February, 2015)

Print This Post Print This Post