Training Best Practice – A Systems Approach

A new evolutionary approach to achieving best practice in leading the training function.

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Moving an Organization towards Best Practice

In today's business environment where change is constant, technology is cheap and skill shortages are commonplace, people are the key differentiator between those businesses that succeed and those that don't. It is little wonder then that the training and development function in an organization plays a pivotal role in moving an organization forward. But how should the training department go about its business of providing the best service possible to the rest of the organization?

The Business Performance Pty Ltd model for best practice training management recognizes the systems nature of organizations and takes an evolutionary approach to achieving best practice. What this means is that the training and development function is co-dependent on the other functions within an organization for its effectiveness and, because of this co-dependence, it cannot achieve world-class performance all at once.

Training management systems diagram

Some of the internal systems on which the training and development function co-depend are:

  • workforce planning
  • performance management
  • rewards and recognition
  • strategic planning

So, for example, if the strategic planning system in an organization is weak, the training function will find it difficult to identify and deliver training programs of high strategic significance. The co-dependence is illustrated by the fact that the organization's ability to plan strategically can be improved through delivering training in strategic planning to senior managers.

Core Mission and Processes

In working with and reflecting on training best practice, we have identified four core processes within an effective training function. These four processes each serve to contribute to the achievement of the training function's core mission. We summarize this mission as:

Deliver people capability required to achieve organizational objectives.

The four core processes that serve to achieve this mission are:

  1. Training Administration
  2. Program Development and Delivery
  3. Training Strategy and Planning
  4. Performance Consulting

An Evolutionary Approach to Best Practice

Our evolutionary approach then describes how an organization may progressively develop these four core processes in a structured and planned way that:

  • makes best use of an organization's resources, and
  • takes account of the maturity level of other internal systems.
Training management maturity levels diagram

This phased maturity model approach links the four levels in the model with each of the four core processes mentioned earlier.

Level 1 – Visibility focuses on training administration
Level 2 – Standards focuses on program development and delivery
Level 3 – Planning focuses on training strategy and planning
Level 4 – Performance focuses on performance consulting

From Theory to Best Practice

The link to actual organizational practice is then achieved through describing for each of the four levels a Focus, a corresponding Primary Objective, Key Practices and suggested Key Performance Indicators. The Primary Objective of each phase specifies the intended organizational outcome of efforts at that level. Each objective says what it is the organization will get by achieving the given level of maturity.

The Key Practices section then goes on to list what it is the organization needs to put in place to achieve that level of maturity. The intention here is to provide guidance on what processes and capabilities are required for operating at that level without being too prescriptive. The range of Key Performance Indicators can be used to either gauge the impact of project efforts to achieve a certain maturity level or to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of the training system.

This phased approach helps to make sense of the core processes and provides guidance on which activities to concentrate for maximum impact on the road to training best practice. The idea here is that improvement efforts at each level lay the infrastructure and embed the organizational practices necessary for achievement of the next maturity level.

How will an organization look as it progressively implements efforts to improve the value of training and development activities? Organizations at the primary level, Level 1 – Visibility, concentrate on getting the basic administrative processes defined and practiced rigorously.

At Level 2 – Standards, there is a focus on improving the quality of the training product developed and finally delivered. Skill gaps are identified before training begins and designers and trainers are professionally equipped to ensure that participants have learned the desired skills following the training.

At Level 3 – Planning, more emphasis is placed on mobilizing training to hit areas of greatest organizational need. Training is used more effectively as an organizational tool for achieving strategic objectives and less as discretionary expenditure in response to ad hoc requests.

Operating at Level 4 – Performance leverages off the disciplines, systems and practices put in place during the previous three stages to achieve real organizational benefits from training. The focus is unswervingly on measurable performance improvement at the level of the organization, teams and individuals. At this level, attention to training activities and inputs is only maintained in so far as they serve the achievement of organizational outcomes.

Expert View Author: AIMM MAITD

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Training Management Maturity Model

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Training Management Maturity Model

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