Before you do job training, check out the need

Job training can improve your organization, but only if you use it in situations that complement your business plan

When an organization isn’t reaching potential, the snap answer is often “do some job training.”

Indeed, there are many powerful job training programs now available in a variety of formats. The power of video and computer-based training has been harnessed to take job training to a level of individualized and specialized learning the trainers of just a few decades ago couldn’t even dream of.

One thing, however, hasn’t changed in job training. There are situations in which it will be effective, and situations where it likely won’t. How do you know one from the other, to avoid making a costly mistake?

The role of needs assessment in the job training decision

The answer, say training consultants, is to first do a needs assessment. This process examines the job on which performance might, or might not, be improved through training and brings the experience and knowledge of the targeted workforce into making the decision of whether to train.

As outlined by employment practices author Max Messmer, and other experts, the first step involves simply asking the workers their thoughts how much training would help them.

Messmer suggests doing so in a questionnaire which outlines their job responsibility point by point and then asks how useful training would be for each. He also suggests giving supervisors a chance to provide input from their view.

Keep your job training in sync with your strategy

The answers received are not to be taken without further analysis, however. Messmer reminds HR managers that any job training solution needs to also mesh with the strategic goals of the company. If, for example, workers need to improve a skill for a product line important to the firm’s future, job training would be worth the investment. But not for a line scheduled for phase out.

He also advises making sure that the skills you seek to have your employees master are trainable with the resources you have. A day or two in the training room or with a CBT program might very well get them to speed on a new computer program or machine tool But it would likely take far longer, if it could even be done, to train those that need it to be more personable and likeable in their contact with customers.

A final part of the needs assessment concerns locating training resources, once you’ve made the decision to train. How large a gap exists between current performanceyou’re your goal? What format will work best? Should the training be done in-house or outsourced to specialists? What accommodation needs to be made in business operations to free up the workforce for training? And what will the investment be?

Job training, fortunately, is one area that usually has measurable results, whether in units produced, error rates reduced or increased levels of worker morale. Look at the results of similar job training done elsewhere. Set realistic goals and then share the results with your managers. Show them the training investment you made met a strategic need and was well worth its cost.