Making Time for Learning and Development
As we progress into 2016, the annual review process is probably well underway in many organisations. It’s a time when employees and managers discuss the upcoming year, and decide what, if any, development actions are needed. It’s the opportunity to galvanise your employees and inspire them to progress as the year does. However, as with many personal goals we hold, life often gets in the way, and rather than following the development path set out in the annual review, employees may end up postponing development in order to follow up on other, more ‘urgent’ tasks. It’s not an uncommon scenario, but it is one that can be hugely detrimental for individuals and the business, and one that is frustratingly easy to avoid.
Typically within most businesses, people set objectives early in the year and identify areas they want to develop. Unfortunately, while enthusiasm may be high and intentions good to start with, often Business As Usual quickly rears its ugly head and forcefully derails these plans. As a result people either don’t get the training opportunities they need or it’s all bundled up at the end of the year when objectives are to be reviewed. This has a negative impact on the individual as it means they’re not getting the training they need to do their job effectively, and it’s also bad for the business. Not only does it contribute to inefficiency and low productivity due to employees not being competently skilled, it also puts huge strain on L&D and HR to try and get the training plans met. This causes stress universally throughout the business. When training plans are designed, whether at a strategic or individual level, they need to have realistic timelines that allow them to be implemented effectively. Without this, individuals will miss out, and businesses will pay the price.
The expected timeline may be agreed during objective setting meetings and should be followed through as agreed. Obviously some deviation may occur due to scheduling conflicts either on the part of individuals or the L&D team, but it should remain a high priority for all parties. When a training or development plan is devised, it’s important that priorities are established and agreed, and adequate time and resources are allocated to enable this to happen. By actively prioritising employees’ development, it ensures that ‘must do’ training is more likely to get done, and still offers opportunities for ‘would like to’ training. Next the timeline needs to be clearly set up and designed to allow development to occur consistently throughout the year. This ensures employees are provided with on-going opportunities to develop, helping to positively impact engagement, productivity and growth, but also ensures L&D teams aren’t bombarded with last minute requests that they cannot fulfil. It also allows for more fluidity for individuals as they may recognise that there are further areas they want to develop, and can begin discussing this earlier on than if they have to wait until the end of the year. If an employee waits until the last minute to attend a certain training session, not only will they not be able to put their learning into practice as efficiently as possible, but they may then have to wait until the next year to attend any follow up sessions. This may then further hamper their development, and decrease their effectiveness at work.
Designing, implementing and auditing a scheduled training plan is one of the most important things that an organisation can do to maximise the positive contribution of their employees. It improves their knowledge base, boosts their confidence and demonstrates your investment in their progression. All of this combined leads to a more effective, productive and engaged workforce that will not only be more enjoyable to have on your team, but will also be able to have a real impact on your business too.
Tips on Finding Time to Train
Understand the training opportunities available
This is important both as a manager and employee; if you don’t know what opportunities are available to you, then you can’t utilise them. Managers should have a comprehensive understanding of the training available for their staff whether it’s in-house or third party options. Equally staff should also be encouraged to explore the options for themselves, and be encouraged to discuss these in the context of professional development.
Agree dedicated time
One of the most vital aspects of supporting an employee’s development is allowing them the time needed to act on it. This should be discussed and agreed upon when drawing up the training plan. But importantly it also needs to be actively implemented, scheduled and reviewed to ensure development can progress as agreed.
Don’t rely on formal training
Individuals can learn in a variety of different ways, and if there are specific things that employees need to know, and formal training isn’t feasible think creatively and find information you need using other sources. This may include e-learning modules, online articles and videos, peer to peer learning, shadowing, or attending conferences and other events.
Use agreed objectives
But work flexibly. Objectives resulting from performance reviews can form an excellent template to work from. However, they shouldn’t be used in isolation. People are complex, and their learning needs will likely evolve as the year progresses, so if something new crops up, review your original plan and amend it accordingly.