Everywhere one looks in South Africa these days, skills training opportunities abound. The sheer array of business workshops, conferences, e-learning, short courses, seminars, webinars etc, can make it very difficult to select the best training investment for your organisational or personal needs.
In my experience as a business development consultant and trainer, and also a willing recipient of training, I have come to believe that there are only two kinds of training programmes – those that deliver, and those that do not. The difference between the two can be quite a fine line, but as a rule good business and staff training programmes have a number of common traits, some of which I have listed below.
Practical Take Outs and Quick Wins
It is important to remember that for many entrepreneurs and business owners, taking time out from running the business to send their staff or attend training is not a decision entered into lightly. In a small organisation with limited resources, the two-or-three day absence of a senior decision-maker can have quite an impact.
For this reason, the first essential element to good training is that it offers tangible, immediately return on investment in the fomr of implementable lessons and knowledge. Theory-laden, content heavy training may have its place in certain sectors and contexts, but for the most part business participants need to walk away equipped with information, tools and templates that can make an immediate impact.
Academic vs Entrepreneurial Approach
If you had to ask me if I would rather my staff learn from a noted professor or a successful businessman with no academic qualifications whatsoever, in most instances I would choose the latter. Whilst academic learning is of great value in context, the need to gain practical and proven tools for immediate application is a greater imperative.
Academic learning provides an important base from which someone can grow, but once in business the practical ‘how to’ is of greatest importance.
The ideal trainer is one who has studied and understands the theoretical foundation of his subject matter, but who has also ‘walked the walk’ in terms of hard-nosed experience.
Chalk & Talk is so Last Century…
A third element of an effective training investment is a healthy balance between the lecture-based ‘chalk & talk’ approach, and the dialogue-based approach in which the audience is encouraged to contribute, share experiences and get involved. Studies show that people are far more receptive and inclined to retain learning when it involves participation and is activity-based.
Good training programmes contain a healthy balance of theory, practical exercises, debate, group work and time for networking and discussion. The old days of a trainer droning on over a powerpoint presentation are so passé.
Keep Away from the Sausage Factory!
A final element of a powerful training workshop or programme is the effectiveness of the follow-up. Once the course is complete or the workshop over, what follow-up (if any) is provided to learners? Is there an opportunity to access some support or mentorship when trying to implement the new learning? Are there online tools or resources you can access that will help you with this process? In other words, do trainers take the money and run, or actually show a genuine interest in your team’s ability to implement the new found knowledge and see a long term return on your training investment?
Training in a vacuum very seldom has the desired impact and long-term effect, because it is human nature to forget or be unsure about implementation. Good training programmes understand this, and thus provide ‘after-sales’ service to make sure that learners feel confident to implement what they have learned.
These elements listed above of what makes an effective training programme are by no means exhaustive, and are based on personal experience.However, when assessing skills training options for yourself or your organisation, you would be well advised to ask what they offer in terms of some of these criteria, so that you can be confident of a good return on your training investment.
About the Author
Anton Ressel is a published author, mentor, trainer and Senior Business Consultant at Fetola (www.fetola.co.za ). He has worked on enterprise development and community upliftment initiatives for NORAD (Norwegian Development Aid), the Embassy of Finland, Old Mutual, SAB, the SA Government and many others.
The Fetola #JustAddGreen programme supports the development of high potential, growth-motivated SME’s that are active in the Green Economy. The initiative is managed and implemented by enterprise and supplier development specialists Fetola in partnership with J.P. Morgan.