Finding the Value of Training

Training is an investment. Not a tangible investment like information technology, but nonetheless, an investment. It is an investment in the future of your company, in your department, and in your employees. The trick is finding the value of the training investment in a tangible, quantifiable manner.

What is training?

First, what is your perception of training? What is training? For some, "training" brings up government regulations for discrimination and cultural diversity training. For others, the word training conjures up negativity like "expensive," "boring," and "unproductive." Some of us think of training with glee, an opportunity to grow and learn. Simply speaking, training is any opportunity to improve skills and knowledge, an opportunity to learn. This magazine, International Spectrum, is a training tool in itself. Albeit a free one, but education, learning, and skill building can come from reading its pages. Training also comes in the form of informal gatherings of programmers sharing knowledge and ideas, brown bag lunch sessions, user group meetings, webinars such as those offered from International Spectrum or others, customized on-site training from database and tools vendors, off-site training or "boot camps" from your database providers, and conferences and trade shows like the International Spectrum conference or your vertical market conferences. Even mentoring programs, either internally-based or from vendors, provide a training component. For the IT professional, training encompasses more than just technical topics, but also interpersonal communication, leadership, business analysis, project management, customer serv­ice, and even conflict management. Why? Because training improves the bottom line — if it is provided in a focused, results-oriented manner.

Focusing your Training Efforts

Training costs can add up. So how do you ensure you are providing the right training for your employees (or yourself)? By providing training that increases the business' ability to grow, adapt, and change in its marketplace and grows the employee's skills in a manner that enables and equips them to perform well, you can increase the effectiveness of your training dollars.

Choose training opportunities that allow your employees (or yourself) to grow in knowledge and skills that further the business. Look for opportunities to increase productivity, lower technology related costs, and be on the lookout for tools that will improve efficiency and/or quality. If you are in the software business, programmers need to understand the importance of quality and testing; programming bugs (or undesirable features) cost time and money in support, programming patches, and customer service relations.

Another approach is to build employee skills based on performance and personal development needs and interests. Employees who are engaged in the training process and are growing also tend to be engaged in the business process and look for ways to enhance the business. By growing your employee skills, you create a more flexible, adaptable workforce to meet business needs and a more satisfied workforce.

Identifying the Value

When looking at training's potential value or measuring its effectiveness, ask yourself, "Will the training…

  • be used in the workplace?"
  • reduce costs?"
  • improve productivity?"
  • improve business processes?"
  • improve system, network, application, or database performance?"
  • increase the quality of our service, application, or business?"
  • reduce wasted assets, time, or opportunities?"
  • expand our ability to produce new products or services?"
  • give us more flexibility to adapt, produce, or develop?"
  • increase employee or team productivity?"
  • allow us to maximize the use of a product or service we have now or will have in the near future?"
  • improve our internal or external customer satisfaction?"
  • improve our employee satisfaction?"
  • cut our cycle time or improve our schedule performance?"
  • be useful to others in our organization?"

Factor in the value of your answers and compare it to the cost of the training. One training session may provide the insight or knowledge needed to save hours of labor each week. That cost savings may pay for the training.

Maximizing your Training Investment

One way to cut the cost of training is to leverage it. Teleseminars, webinars, and online training seminars usually allow you to pay one fee for the entire site, allowing the training cost to be split across as many employees as you can fit in the same room in front of the computer and a speaker phone. The same leveraging concept can be applied other training venues as well.

If a training session would be helpful to more than one employee, it may be more cost-effective to arrange an on-site training session, bringing the trainer to you. For employees who participate in off-site training sessions, including conferences and trade shows, arrange for the employee to prepare a series of short (one hour or less) sessions with their co-workers to share the knowledge. Arrange for optional brown-bag training sessions at lunch times, where an employee shares a skill, or tips and tricks with others. This technique not only spreads the knowledge, but also builds your employee's presentation and communication skills as well.

Encourage your senior staff members to share their knowledge with others, creating mentoring opportunities and enhancing your employees' skills. If you have a project but don't have the skill set on hand to do it, consider creating a mentoring relationships between consultants and your staff, so the project gets done and your staff gain new skills for future projects.

The true value of training investment comes when the knowledge and skills compound and grow among your staff. After all, a company's intellectual capital is often what gives it the competitive advantage it needs to succeed.

Shannon Stoltz

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Jan/Feb 2012