Training as Business Planning

I was recently hit with something no training manager wants to hear from the field. It was the dreaded “I came to class because my supervisor told me to go” line.

Now, if that supervisor sent the technician to class because of a good business reason, albeit an apparently unknown reason to the technician, that’s acceptable. But if the technician was sent to class simply to fulfill a training hours requirement, that is not a good reason to spend valuable time and money.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having a “butt in seat” requirement, or a goal for company and individual training hours. What gets measured gets done.

But such requirements work best when managers are actively seeking the best and most appropriate training courses for those employees.

When it comes down to it, training needs to drive results – more specifically, bottom-line results.

If the training is done primarily to say, “Each of our employees got 40 hours of training last year,” the actual benefits of the training are secondary. Good and appropriate training should affect employees’ behaviors and sharpen their focus, ultimately driving business results.

Proactive, Not Reactive

At the root of the problem for companies whose training does not measure up is that sending employees to training classes is too often reactive rather than proactive. There is some stimulus, such as declining on-time deliveries or increasing mechanical breakdowns in the field, and the manager looks to training as a fix.

The better overall training programs result from planning, not reacting.

Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with using learning to help solve a current problem, assuming that training is a viable solution to that problem. However, training is not always the solution, as I have written in some previous Fleet Maintenance articles.

But such reactive training should be a one-off exception, not the rule that drives your entire training curriculum. Planning your training curriculum starts with careful assessment of the job classifications for which you are responsible. Analyze the knowledge and skills required to do the job effectively.

Look both within a single classification (basic to intermediate to advanced) and across job classifications (adding new and different skills that may allow employee movement).

Working with HR to organize and categorize this analysis can help turn a training program into a true employee development program.

Only after careful review of the analysis data and diligent planning should you begin the process of looking for external and internal sources that can provide the actual training solutions.

This process can be laborious in itself, but the advantage to following the planning sequence is that your search is now much more focused.

Stephen Howe is a field trainer and technical training consultant for United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company with approximately 900 branch locations in North America. He is a past president of the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC), a global organization of training managers from automotive aftermarket, OEM, supplier, service tool and training companies.