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Training Manager Guide


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A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results
There’s a problem in the world of training. Despite the fact some businesses view training as an essential aspect of business performance, it is often undervalued. Many organizations view it as something they should do – in other words, to ‘check a box’. They also think that simply having employees ‘sit in a classroom’ is equivalent to building actual, proven competency, when nothing could be further from the truth. Organizations ought to approach training as something that will fundamentally improve overall business performance, cultivate talent from within, and ensure not only that employees have completed the courses required for their job, but are actually competent in their job functions and best positioned to improve the overall performance of the organization. But whether training is viewed as an afterthought or taken more seriously, a number of problems still pervade many organizations. Specifically: • • • Too few businesses strategically and proactively invest in robust training programs. In the face of turbulent economic times, training budgets are often the first to suffer. Training programs are too often more preoccupied with ‘going through the motions’ of training without developing the capacity to measure and prove the effectiveness of the programs.

In spite of this, there is an emerging trend among some businesses to invest more seriously in training and, critically, training tracking tools that help ensure training programs are measurable, effective and designed to cultivate competence among all employees. The intent of this paper is to discuss: • • • The negative impacts of a poor emphasis on training and the effects of shrinking training budgets. How to develop a training strategy that will translate employee training into actual workforce competence. Leveraging technology to track training progress for measureable results.

Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results
The logic behind comprehensive and continuous training is sound: better-trained employees are equipped to perform their job functions at the highest possible level and less likely to make errors that negatively affect business performance. Yet while the virtues of training excellence are obvious, investments in training don’t always reflect the purported value of developed training programs. Though human resource and professional development personnel are often the loudest champions of adequate and aggressive training budgets, those that hold the purse strings in any organization don’t always see things the same way. A typical HR advisor, for example, might argue for a training budget that sits at about 5 to 6 per cent of payroll. In reality, the average training budget for organizations in the U.S. sits around 2 to 2.5 per cent of payroll. Training magazine’s 2011 report on the Training Top 125 revealed a median training budget of 2.9 per cent of payroll among all applicants. The top performers in the report, however, typically contributed closer to 7 per cent. Not surprisingly, many of America’s most profitable and highly regarded businesses (Verizon, Microsoft, Best Buy Co., Intel Corp., etc.) also ranked highly in the training poll, meaning they boasted great training infrastructure, effective training budgets (both as a figure and a percentage of payroll), and a high volume of trainers. But as far as commitments to training investments go, these are the exceptional performers. Most organizations are inclined to minimize the financial burden of training, and this dynamic only gets worse in periods of economic uncertainty.

Training budgets are typically the hardest hit expenditure in turbulent economic times or when corporate purse strings are pulled a little more tightly. A widely cited survey by learning management consulting firm Expertus in early 2009 confirmed what many suspected might occur that year: training budgets plummeted as businesses launched preemptive measures to mitigate the anticipated effects of the economic downturn. According to the survey, which included 84 training professionals across 19 industries, nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents indicated they expected to see training budgets fall in 2009, up from 41 per cent in 2008. This trend continued into 2010 as indicated by a recent survey of 600 private and public sector organizations by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It indicated 43 per cent of organizations saw funding for learning and development drop in 2010, and 42 per cent anticipated further cuts over the following year (compared to only one in 10 who thought training budgets would increase). This trend seemed be reversed somewhat in 2011 as U.S. training expenditures rose 13 per cent to $59.7 billion, according to Training magazine’s 2011 Training Industry Report. Over 30 per cent of respondents reported training budget increases up nearly 25 per cent from 2010 year. Training payroll also jumped from about $26 billion to $31 billion. So, clearly something was in the air in 2011 that made for a marked difference in the landscape of training budgets from 2010 and 2009. However, in spite of the apparent increase in spending on training, two key factors have to be considered: a) The fact that the global economy remains in very fragile state and 2011’s surges in training expenditures could just as easily be 2013’s cutbacks in training budgets. While the negative effects of the recent global economic downturn seem to be receding, the economy remains in a delicate state and cannot be taken for granted. While it should be reiterated that training spend can have a hard and direct impact on training performance, training budgets – and this is key – do not always have a directly proportional relationship to the efficacy of training

Training budgets do not always have a directly proportional relationship to the efficacy of training programs.


Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results programs. In plain terms, you can throw as much money as you want at getting more employees in classrooms and increasing the size and complexity of your training program, but that in no way means your training program will automatically increase its level of effectiveness. In fact, a nimble, low-cost training program driven by an agile training strategy can in some cases actually cultivate better results than a complex, bureaucratic training program burdened by high costs and poor tracking. In short, effective training is a delicate mix of a committed, optimized training budget and a streamlined training program optimized for your organization.

The effects of a training budget cuts or poor training programs might not be evident immediately, but over time will show through cracks in product and service quality. While the worth of a training program isn’t necessarily designated by the dollar value specified in a training budget, training investments often reflect the importance an organization places on training. Compromised, ineffective or inert training programs have many consequences, with direct impacts on: • • • • • Employee morale and confidence. Companywide efficiency. Customer satisfaction. Product and service quality. Lost time, injury and illness rates, and more.

While it can be very expensive to recruit, train, support and develop employees, seasoned business leaders know it is even more expensive to lose those employees.

So how do you gauge whether your organization boasts effective or ineffective training? Consider the following scenario: an employee makes a critical misstep in his day-to-day duties – a mistake that leads to a serious injury, or even loss of life. “But they were trained,” the manager responsible for the employee in question might object. Trained, indeed – but were they competent in their job function? This situation, a regular occurrence in workplaces around the world, speaks to a widespread and persistent discrepancy in many conventional approaches to training management: the gulf between simply delivering training and ensuring actual competency. Most organizations that have achieved sustained success know the value of a comprehensive training program. Streamlined onboarding of new employees and sustained training throughout the course of their professional development can, when delivered effectively, ultimately lead to a more effective workforce and, most importantly, greater retention rates. After all, while it can be very expensive to recruit, train, support and develop employees, seasoned business leaders knows it is even more expensive to lose those employees.

However, too often employers equate training with competency, a wholly inaccurate presumption. Some traditional views on training can be described by the following misconceptions: • • Any training is good training, so a business ought to train for the sake of training. By simply having employees ‘sit in a classroom’, competence is engendered.

Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results
• • • Making training material available is sufficient to induce learning. Subject-matter experts are deemed able to train other staff based on tenure (that is, the notion that longer-serving employees are more capable of delivering training). That robust training is not necessarily worth the investment and ROI is too difficult to capture.

As with the mistaken belief that training is tantamount to competence, all these assumptions lead to false conclusions. But above and beyond how these misconceptions are engendered it is important to clarify what is actually meant by competence in an organizational context. Essentially, ‘competence’ refers to an employee’s ability to do their job properly. But establishing competency within an organization is not something that just happens, nor is it something that will be necessarily produced by the provision of an otherwise robust and seemingly comprehensive training program. Instead, a systematic approach featuring a nuanced training strategy is an essential prerequisite for employee competence. Competency certainly sounds like something that would be an advantageous element to cultivate within a corporate culture, if not an essential element of doing business. However, the intrinsic value of a training program that engenders competency is not always immediately apparent to upper management whose buy-in is critical to the success of any training strategy.

The benefits of a training program that cultivates true competence are multifaceted and impact all aspects of corporate performance. Here’s a list of some of the key ways the effectiveness of a training program affects all aspects of your business: • • Profit and Proficiency: On a day-to-day basis, competence reduces the probability of errors in all job functions, thereby boosting productivity and profitability. Moral Imperative: From a corporate perspective, every organization has a moral, business and legal obligation to their employees in terms of education, and a good training strategy will address each facet in a comprehensive way. For example, an organization has a moral obligation to ensure employees are sufficiently trained in their job function so as not to suffer injuries or encounter preventable illnesses on the job. Bottom Lines: In business terms, should an employee get injured or sick at work there is the potential of a variety of costs that may impact the organization’s bottom line, including claims, insurance costs, lost time, and fines associated with regulatory infractions. Legal Issues: From a legal perspective, if an employee is injured in, say, a manufacturing setting, they could launch a lawsuit against the organization asserting that they were insufficiently trained. In such a situation, if the organization could not produce documented evidence to clearly prove the employee was provided with required training, it may be on the hook for substantial damages and other consequences, not to mention unavoidable legal fees. Morale: Beyond business-critical benefits of effective training strategy, a powerful byproduct of such an approach is, quite simply, that a competent employee is a happy employee. By ensuring employees are fully prepared to appropriately fulfill all of their job requirements, they suffer less stress over the tactical elements of their job, and enjoy greater confidence and increased motivation to do their job better. Retention: Organizations that take a holistic, continual approach to training and skill-building will ultimately cultivate the sentiment among its workforce that the employer genuinely cares for the employee. While this all leads a higher level of morale among staff and an enhanced focus on quality, the most notable benefit is that retention rates will be greatly improved, and attrition rates will fall. Happy, competent employees who feel they are adequately equipped to excel in their duties are less inclined to leave their organization and more inclined to contribute to their employer’s success.

A high level of employee competence makes the difference between a simply serviceable workforce and one that truly excels.

Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results
While a high level of employee competence makes the difference between a simply serviceable workforce and one that truly excels, many might contest that achieving competence is easier said than done. This is true; properly training staff can be a significant burden on any organization. Simply providing training, tracking training, and measuring competence post-training involves substantial costs, multiple dedicated, full-time trainers, depending on the organization’s size – burdens that are significantly reduced if not entirely eliminated for organizations that use the right training tracking and management software. Coupling these software tools with a training strategy will generate results for any organization of any size, under any budgetary constraints.

Conduct a basic needs assessment to define what the requirements are for all employee groups and determine resource and content availability so you know who is available to provide training and what materials exist or need to be created. The results of these investigations will inform your implementation strategy. Plan to leverage training management software to execute your strategy, and ensure it is scalable software that can accompany corporate growth. There are so many varied training strategy methodologies out there that we won’t point to one approach as more valuable than another, since almost all of these methodologies can achieve the same net result. What’s important is to develop a training strategy that leverages a training methodology that is right for your organization, given its size, complexity, industry, etc. Regardless of the approach you take, ensure your strategy has clearly defined vision, focus, timelines, direction, and actions that will lead to the fulfillment of your strategic vision.

Do you need an employee up and running as soon as possible, or can your training resources take time to train the individual and gradually integrate him or her into the workforce? If you don’t want to hire and maintain a team of trainers to implement your training plan and conduct training and competency exercises as your organization grows, use a training software tool. Yes, training and competency-building is a significant investment, but it cannot be reiterated enough how time-consuming and resource-heavy thorough training can be without streamlined software. Even the simple act of tracking training manually – that is, without a training tracking tool – will eat up unnecessary resources on a daily basis and grind your training program down to a lumbering pace.

While this may be one of the most crucial aspects in a successful training strategy, it is also one of the most overlooked. Business leaders often think that training is nebulous and too difficult to track, and this factor might be the greatest contributor to the gulf between training and competence described above. Yet it is quite simple to track the success of a training strategy – with the right tools. Look for software tools that provide some of the following functionality to work towards achieving your strategic goals and targets: • Capture and streamline key performance indicators (KPI) and other training data, such as: - Dates and times for training. - Instructors. - Cost per delivery. - Attendance. - Accountability.

Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results
• Functionality to automatically: - Assign courses (e.g. Brian is hired in the manufacturing department and automatically assigned a group of required courses). - Set reminders and escalations. - Generate configurable reports for varying levels of management. - Produce detailed analytics on training performance for trending and analysis. • The capacity to generate customized quizzes to test employees on course content to ensure they have actually absorbed required information. One way to ensure employee competence is to build customized quizzes that can be modified on the fly, and improved on the basis of current, relevant feedback – including the ‘fresh insights’ of recent hires.

The last step is generally overlooked, yet is one of the most crucial aspects of building competency as opposed to having employees simply ‘sit in a classroom’. Notably, possessing all of these documented metrics will help you circumvent potential legal calamities by enabling you to easily prove all employees were thoroughly trained. Intelex, for example, offers a training quiz building tool that enables managers, trainers, supervisors and others, to create, add to, and modify existing training quizzes. This ensures questions are always relevant and applicable, and because questions are randomized and pulled from a larger database, employees always face a new subset of skill- and competence-building scenarios. Analytics can then be assessed, analyzed and rolled into revised training programs in the name of continuous improvement. To illustrate the latter point, imagine a training question database that featured one question ‘trained’ employees repeatedly failed to answer correctly, or was associated with metrics that, over time, didn’t reflect the actuality of what was occurring in day-to-day operations (for example, though trained employees indicated 95 per cent of the time that they would, as required, wash their boots before exiting a quarantined workspace, most of the time employees failed to wash their boots before exiting the workspace). With a fully integrated system, the actuality of what occurs in day-to-day operations can be mapped back to training records to ensure employee competence has actually been achieved.

But critically – and to the very heart of bottom-up training approaches – a comprehensive software system should be capable of highlighting chinks in the armour of a training program, providing immediate opportunities to adjust the system to eliminate weaknesses as well as account for opportunities for improvement. Some Intelex clients have been equipped with a very simple scalable tool that allows businesses – of any size and scope – to build web-based forms that allow interested employees to submit ‘change requests’ and suggestions to help improve the integrity of training programs. Succinct dashboards with real-time metrics allow managers and supervisors to hone in on the top 20 or 10 per cent of training components employees most frequently sought changes with or provided suggestions related to. This enables trainers to draw upon the insights, knowledge and will of employees to implement changes proposed and agreed upon by a critical mass of relevant personnel, thereby continuously improving the integrity and performance of their training programs, from the bottom to the top. An underlying component to a successful training strategy is buy-in, and not just from senior management and those that hold the purse strings, but across the entire organization. As you prepare your training strategy, create case studies, define scenarios that illustrate the consequences of compromised training – as well as the costs, time and resources associated with a manual training management system as opposed to a software-based system – and calculate training ROI to build a convincing case for a streamlined, competency-focused training strategy.

Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


A Training Manager’s Guide to Tracking Training for Measurable Results
Most businesses view training as an afterthought or simply something to be fulfilled to meet corporate, regulatory or standardsdriven requirements. However, streamlined training management represents the greatest opportunity for companywide continuous improvement, across all processes and through all departments. Though investments in training tend to slip in the face of economic uncertainty, best-in-class companies know training spells success. Though top-down methodologies have dominated corporate training in recent years, the emergence of bottom-up training presents greater opportunities to continuously improve business performance, boost employee morale, and ensure actual, measurable employee competence.

With Canadian and UK offices, Intelex is a global leader in business performance software solutions, including training management applications, with 600 clients and half-a-million system users across dozens of industries. Since 1992 its scalable, web-based platform and suite of environment, health, safety (EHS), quality and business performance applications have helped clients across a diverse range of industries manage EHS and quality data and ensure sustained compliance with internationally accepted standards (e.g. ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001), and regulatory requirements. To learn more about our robust training management software solutions, take advantage of these FREE resources: Free Online Demo Free Trial Access

Receive a comprehensive online demonstration of the Intelex system and software applications. Receive a free trial access pass to the Intelex system and explore its vast functionalities and capabilities.

Product & Pricing Info Receive a customized package outlining Intelex product features and pricing breakdown. Free Consultation

Receive an in depth consultation with an Intelex Solutions Expert to assess your needs and solutions.

Intelex Technologies Inc.

905 King Street W, Suite 600, Toronto, ON. M6K 3G9 | T: 416.599.6009 |


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