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Where does Training Fit into a Development Plan?

Most development plans seem to involve little more than just signing up for training programs. Where does training fit into a development plan?

Training isn’t ‘‘development.’’ Training is simply one component in a complete development plan. Here are six suggestions to use training as an effective part of a development process:

  1. Never start a development plan with a training program.
  2. Identify your objectives first.
  3. Contact the trainer.
  4. Focus on application.
  5. Build alliances.
  6. Seek immediate opportunities to practice.

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Training isn’t ‘‘development.’’ Training is simply one component in a complete development plan.

1. Never start a development plan with a training program. Training should never be scheduled as one of the first activities in the plan. At the very beginning of a development process, most people don’t know what they need to learn. They have no internally tested data that tell them that the area they have identified is one that they truly need to learn something about and do something different in.

2. Identify your objectives first. What is it, as a result of the training program, that the individual will be able to do that he is not now able to do? That is the key question to ask—not what will the person learn or appreciate, but what will he do differently as a result of training? Without some initial data on what the individual is doing right now, it is difficult to formulate worthwhile behavioral change objectives.

3. Contact the trainer. If the training is an instructor-led program, call the instructor in advance with a list of personal learning objectives and ask if they will be met. Calling the trainer in advance provides two additional benefits that enhance the learning experience. First, knowing the reasons that this particular individual is attending the program encourages the trainer to make sure that all of those objectives are covered. Second, the facilitator will go out of her way to meet the individual and make sure, over the course of the session, that the program is delivering what was promised.

4. Focus on application. Just learning new ideas and techniques and approaches doesn’t do any good if they are not applied. Throughout the training program, the primary question each participant should be asking is, How can I apply what I’ve learned back on the job?

5. Build alliances. Training programs provide an additional important benefit independent of whatever subject matter is taught. They allow participants to interact with each other and build their professional network. Look for opportunities to interact with others in the course of the training session.

6. Seek immediate opportunities to practice. New skills decay rapidly if they are not immediately put to use.

The need for the manager and the subordinate to conduct a postprogram assessment is obvious (but often ignored). The manager who schedules a twenty-minute post-session briefing or requires a one-page bullet-item summary of key points learned (and, more important, actions to be taken based on the program) will not only maximize the dollars spent on training but significantly increase the probability that real development will occur.

Hot Tip

To maximize training’s effectiveness, the manager who is concerned with ensuring the development of her subordinates should require the individual to immediately teach the main points, key concepts, and critical techniques to a group of colleagues. Sharing the learning experience maximizes the investment that the organization makes in the individual. More important, anyone who attends a training program with the knowledge that he is going to have to sift the wheat from the chaff and then serve the wheat to a group of colleagues will be a far more active participant in the learning process.