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Six Lessons on Integrating Policies and Procedures into Your Training Program

by AIMM MAITD

In an earlier article on writing procedures, I shared six key tips on how to create effective procedural type documents. By procedural documents, I mean the full gamut of documents that an organization uses to convey to people why actions are performed, who is responsible for performing them and how they are to be performed. In these kinds of documents, I include the following types:

  • policies
  • procedures
  • process maps
  • work instructions

Each of these kinds of document can play an important part in the success of any organization, clarifying expectations and assisting collaborative work flows. In this article, I want to now extend the discussion to how trainers can best capitalize on procedural documents to drive the success of their training programs.

Why are procedural documents important for the success of training programs? Well, documenting the way you do things in your organization and why you do, and keeping the documentation up to date, sends a powerful reinforcing message to employees about what is expected from them following the training.

Especially where the training is part of a change or improvement program, it is critical that the documented procedures are consistent with the new expected behaviors on the job. Even more than this, these documents will need to require the performance of the new behaviors to the expected standard. There are many lessons here in how to use procedural documents effectively in making the most of your training efforts. Here are what I think are the six most important.

  1. Do not rely on training manuals to act as procedure documents back in the workplace. Training manuals and other such instructional materials are designed to make learning efficient and effective. They are not necessarily best suited as a quick and easy resource for employees back on the job. Ensure that procedural documents are well-labeled, specific to one task and indexed for easy retrieval.

    When to Act: Before Training

  2. For software and other systems type installations, make sure that the procedural documents are updated to reflect the customizations added to the software. If the instructions do not match what employees are actually facing back on the job, they will quickly become frustrated and the expected behavior change will not become entrenched.

    When to Act: Before Training

  3. Adopting new systems in an organization requires a number of "business rules" to be decided. This applies to new asset management databases, customer relationship management processes, content management systems, and so on. These business rules typically revolve around the following kinds of activities:

    • collecting, validating and entering data
    • archiving data
    • setting up and managing user permissions
    • handing over product from one department or section to another

    These rules usually need to be decided and documented before front-line employees undertake the training and be communicated to employees during the training. If the employees' line managers and the project managers implementing the new system cannot do this, then train managers on how to implement the new system competently before rolling out the training for front-line employees.

    Don't let your employees flounder with incomplete systems installations. I have seen far too many systems implementations in which the software is installed and the management team accepts that that is the end of the implementation. No amount of "training" will fix a system with little or no rules in place.

    The same applies to any kind of "system of working" that depends on its effectiveness on people working collaboratively and in a coordinated manner – whether software is used or not. Project management, strategic planning and quality management are just three examples.

    So, for example, if project management practices are weak in your organization, then sending underperforming project managers to a project management training program, without dealing with the lack of project management systems in your organization, is simply wasting money.

    In this case, project management systems and procedures that need to be in place include ones for:

    • submitting and approving business cases and project budgets
    • setting up project governance
    • allocating human resources in matrix style reporting structures
    • project change control

    If these systems are not in place, do not expect novice project managers, trained or not, to set these systems up without management support and funding. Returning from a project management course to this kind of situation will see such novice project managers take the line of least resistance. Very soon, it will be back to "business as usual".

    When to Act: Before Training

  4. Check with the people in charge that the new system has a definite cutover date decided. This is the date on which the old system will be decommissioned and the new system will become fully operational. This is the date on which you and training participants' managers expect the participants to start behaving differently, according to the new procedures. Ensure that this date is communicated to participants clearly and often. Otherwise, they will return from training with no clear idea of when they are expected to behave differently.

    When to Act: Before Training

  5. Where possible, use the new or revised documentation as an integral part of the training. Make the training content and exercises resemble as close as possible the participants' real work situation. So, there is no excuse for not including the procedures in the training.

    If there is some latitude about how the new or revised procedures will look, then one or more of the training sessions can be in the form of a facilitated workshop to design these procedures. This approach not only uses your best minds to write the procedures, it has the added benefit of resulting in higher commitment to them as the participants accept them as "their" procedures.

    When to Act: During Training

  6. Even where participants cannot practice the new or revised procedures, you can use them as an effective didactic device in enhancing the learning. You may, for example, cut up the individual steps in a procedure, randomize them and then ask one participant to sort them into the correct order in front of the class. The resulting discussion amongst all of the participants about why one step precedes another serves to create more diverse connections inside their brains, and hence aid their long-term memory. You can even use this method in an earlier session, before participants practice the actual procedure.

    When to Act: During Training

Use these six lessons to integrate properly the relevant policies, procedures, process maps, and so on, into your training program. Review not only what you need to do during the progress of the training program, but just as importantly, what you and participants' managers and project managers need to do before training begins.

Learning does not stop when the last participant leaves the training room or completes the last online module. It's only when the participant returns to the workplace that the real work of applying the learning to their job begins. By acting on these lessons, you will increase the chance that your training will have an impact long after your training program finishes.

The above is a condensed adaptation from Leslie Allan's book, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance.

Copyright © Leslie Allan

About the Author
Leslie Allan

Leslie Allan is Managing Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd; a management consulting firm specializing in people and process capability. He has been assisting organizations for over 20 years, contributing in various roles as project manager, consultant and trainer for organizations large and small.

He is also the author of five books on training and change management and is the creator of various training tools and templates. Leslie is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the Quality Society of Australasia. He is also a member of the Divisional Council of the Victorian Division of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD). Leslie may be contacted by email at office@businessperform.com

Leslie Recommends
From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance

Find out more about helping your training program participants apply their learning to the job. Check out Leslie Allan's comprehensive guide and workbook on improving workplace performance through training. Visit the From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance information portal to find out how to download the free Introductory Chapter and start using Leslie's comprehensive employee performance guide and toolkit today.

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