Business Basics: Training and developing employees effectively

20 December 2017

This month, we talk to Pam Bateson, a learning and development expert, as well as co-founder and CEO of coaching and mentoring business, Thrive Partners.

Pam has been a management consultant for 23 years, helping businesses build successful strategies. She specialises in the media and education sectors and has also worked within the NHS – where she worked on new funding models and implementing trust status.

Her business, Thrive Partners, is an on-demand, cost-effective training and coaching service – her clients include everyone from startups to huge corporations such as PepsiCo.

pam bateson thrive partners

Here, Pam answers our questions on how to train and develop employees effectively.

Hi Pam, thanks for talking with us. Firstly, wed like to ask what benefits you believe effectively developing workforce skillsets offers to small and medium-sized businesses?

The primary benefit is for employees. As people, we like to feel we’re ‘going somewhere’ and learning is a key way for us to feel like our career is developing – and it’s more important for lots of people than salary or job title.

Our research shows that 48% of us would consider changing jobs for better training, so businesses have to be able to attract the best talent, too. Additionally, employees who are happy and engaged do better work – and beyond this, your organisation can meet its goals using the new knowledge your people have gained.

For some roles, employees benefit from receiving a mix of on-the-job training and formal qualifications. How should an employer identify the weighting of these two forms of training to offer the greatest benefit to the employee and the business?

So, formal qualifications are great – and we know that in lots of cases, people will buy in to the seal of approval that they provide, since they can provide opportunities to network and connect with other like-minded professionals. However, I believe that learning on the job is best; context is so important to effective learning, and on-the-job training allows people to solve real challenges straight away.

Getting the balance right is tricky. I’d recommend basing an approach on the requirements and characteristics of the individual learner.

online professional learning on the go

Which do you find has a greater impact on an employees’ development online training and tutorials or face-to-face learning?

Again, it largely depends on the individual. Sometimes our best learning happens with half an hour on Google, or from spending half an hour working out a problem for ourselves – it’s definitely something that should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

That said, I do believe that you need a balance of digital and human if you want your training offering to be engaging, measurable, and ultimately, useful for both employees and the organisation.

Naturally, training comes at a cost to any business, from the lost work hours to the investment in resources. What tips would you give to businesses keen to train and develop their team in a cost-effective way?

Firstly, make it specific: work out who in the organisation most needs formal learning and development support. Who has the most potential to do more? And how would it benefit them and the business?

company training meeting

And secondly, maybe controversially, we’d also encourage the idea that learners should be able to manage their own training budgets. They may choose to do a course, buy a book, take a trip to see a similar business overseas, or get some coaching or mentoring. They will be able to invest in whatever learning they feel they need to grow and be better at their jobs (therefore adding value to the business).

When creating a career path and training plan, should this be directed by the experience of management level, or be left to the ambitions of the individual?

It’s a bit of both. Management has a role in setting the direction for learning in their organisation – choosing training options for employees which best meet the goals and aims of the business. Management teams should ensure their offering is both human and digital, measurable, inclusive to all ages and types of worker, and focuses on both knowledge and soft skills – which will be more valuable in a digitised economy.

Within this framework, individuals should be able to choose what works best for them – choosing how, where and when they want to learn.

businesswoman mentoring junior employee

How important is it to identify the different personality types in the workplace, and then adapt training and development processes accordingly?

While you don’t need to segment to a detailed level, it’s essential to offer a range of learning options. We’re all individuals – what ticks one person’s boxes is another person’s turn-off. As with everything in life, it’s about variety and balance.

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How often should employers revisit and restructure their training and development processes and practices?

It depends on your starting point – currently, I’d say around three-quarters of training and development practices are blunt and ineffective. This represents a huge amount of wasted business time and resource, and a whole lot of learners who aren’t getting what they need to grow.

team members at sme training

It’s only worth revisiting practices once you’ve made the paradigm shift that puts learners in charge of their own destinies. It’s now key to offer employees choice around what they learn, when they learn it, and how they learn it.

From there, stay on your toes. Add or remove choices based on what employees are telling you they need content on. A basic learning management system is old hat now – so you’ll need to add or remove services from your portfolio of learning tools on an annual or biannual basis.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to read the rest of the Q&As in our Business Basics series. You can find a selection of recent articles using the following links:

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