An Indian Theosophist Philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote that “There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” I completely agree. I was lucky enough to be brought up in a strong learning environment (only it didn’t feel like learning was being shoved down our throats). The habit of reading, learning and questioning was formed early and has never left me. As MD of a busy HR consultancy, never a day goes past when I don’t learn something new. It’s part of the excitement. It could be something to do with employment law or HR, or with the business side of things, new technology or a new trend. It makes for a rainbow-filled world.
Learning, the passing on of knowledge and gaining of experience runs through the heart of everything we do at Russell HR. It’s not an add-on, it’s intrinsic to the workplace and my business style. Every opportunity is taken to identify and exploit learning opportunities.
Discussions about workplace training and development never go away. Whether we are arguing about having to take on basic educational skills training, such as literacy training, styles of training, amount of training, it’s always in the HR news. What we all agree on is that training and, learning and development are an important part of any role, in any organisation.
In a survey conducted by Interserve Plc, career development opportunities was cited as the second most essential consideration when considering a future employer. The survey spoke to just over 2,000 adults who are employed by businesses with 1,000 or more employees. A third of respondents said that they believe bigger businesses are now worse at providing training to improve skills and career development opportunities than ten years ago.
In 2013 the Government issued a statement that “Continuing Vocational Training is recognised both by the European Union and European national governments as a key contribution to competitiveness and productivity, to adaptation of workforces to changing patterns of production and work organisation, and to social cohesion.” All good stuff no doubt, but a fairly big ask. Have we moved to a situation where workplace learning is supposed to educate people as much - maybe more - than schools and colleges. From, health and safety through to management skills and literacy training, it seems employers also have to train in social cohesion too!
The fact is that many businesses just do not deliver relevant, up-to-date training. 64 per cent of employers consider that poor quality or lack of management skills in its teams is holding their business back, but only 40 per cent of the employers train their staff in such skills.
Sometimes workplace training is remedial. My team is reasonably literate, but the two areas I have to watch out for are commas and capitals. Today’s young people seem to treat commas interchangeably with full stops (they are not the same!). And capitals! They’re dotted around all over the shop. They used to look puzzled when I mention proper nouns, though getting much better. Employers really shouldn’t be doing this. It’s basic stuff that school should be covering. Since schools are clearly not doing so and accuracy is important in our business, as the employer I have had to tackle it.
Training also has to keep up with the times. The world and the workplace are changing very fast so we have to train the skills to operate in the current day meeting current needs and expectations. I certainly didn’t learn about email and internet skills at school because none of that had been invented then. I learned at work. Business demand, technological development, type of workforce and external factors, such as politics, can all impact on a business and the need and type of training required. Training should be revisited regularly to ensure it is necessary to the role which you are providing the training for.
Tips for effective workplace training:
- Have a training plan for individuals so you know what you’re shooting at. Build in objectives, success factors, testing criteria and timescales.
- Having mentors is so valuable in educating trainees. It can also benefit the person doing the mentoring and build their skills.
- Variety is the spice of training life. Use different experiences and providers to vary the training diet. From just-arrived emails that pose an interesting question, to shadowing clients, note taking in meetings, workplace visits, carrying out research for an article, anything and everything can be grist to the training mill.
- Have short, focussed training activities. We use weekly toolbox talks and monthly lunchtime learning sessions to inform and assess knowledge.
- Remember that mistakes are also learning opportunities. Use them to your advantage.
- Find out from your team what they want to learn and create opportunities.
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