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Training and Development

Conventional 'training' is required to cover essential work-related skills, techniques and knowledge, and much of this section deals with taking a positive progressive approach to this sort of traditional 'training'.

Importantly, however, the most effective way to develop people is quite different from conventional skills training, which many employees regard quite negatively. They'll do it of course, but they won't enjoy it much because it's about work, not about themselves as people. The most effective way to develop people is instead to enable learning and personal development, with all that this implies.

So, as soon as you've covered the basic work-related skills training that is much described in this section - focus on enabling learning and development for people as individuals - which extends the range of development way outside traditional work skills and knowledge, and creates far more exciting, liberating, motivational opportunities - for people and for employers.

Rightly organisations are facing great pressure to change these days - to facilitate and encourage whole-person development and fulfilment - beyond traditional training.

Introduction and Context

As with this website as a whole, this training guide is oriented chiefly around what's good for people, rather than chiefly what's profitable for organisations.

The reason for this is that in terms of learning, training and development, what's good for people is good for the organisations in which they work. What's good for people's development is good for organisational performance, quality, customer satisfaction, effective management and control, and therefore profits too.

This is central to a fairly balanced Psychological Contract in employment organisations.

Profit is an outcome of managing and developing people well. People and their development enable profit. Enable people and you enable profit.

Organisations which approach training and development from this standpoint inevitably foster people who perform well and progress, and, importantly, stay around for long enough to become great at what they do, and to help others become so.

Training is a very commonly used word, so it features heavily on this page, but learning is in many ways a better way to think of the subject, because learning 'belongs' to the learner, whereas training traditionally 'belongs' to the trainer or the organization.

This is a significant difference in attitude, explained in more detail on the training or learning page.

Training should be about whole person development - not just transferring skills, the traditional interpretation of training at work.

Whatever your role and responsibility, you might not immediately be able to put great new emphasis on 'whole person development'.

Being realistic, corporate attitudes and expectations about what 'training' is and does cannot be changed overnight, and most organisations still see 'training' as being limited to work skills, classrooms and powerpoint presentations. However, when you start to imagine and think and talk about progressive attitudes to developing people - beyond traditional skills training - for example:

  • 'Enabling learning'
  • 'Facilitating meaningful personal development'
  • 'Helping people to identify and achieve their own personal potential'

Then you will surely begin to help the organisation (and CEO) to see and accept these newer ideas about what types of 'learning and development' really work best and produces class-leading organisations.

There are very many materials on this website with particular relevance to the design and delivery and management of learning and development. Here are some examples, which will lead you to others, aside from the general guidance on this page:

Conscious Competence learning model

Learning evaluation methods - including training assessment tools

Kirkpatrick's learning evaluation model - brilliant and simple

Experiential learning - and guide to facilitating experiential learning activities

Role-playing - principles and guide

Kolb's Learning styles model

Training or learning? - facilitating learning - rather than imposing training - ideas on whole-person development.

The group selection recruitment/assessment centre design guide also contains some useful information for training and assessment design, especially the need to establish a clear specification (development/assessment criteria) before beginning to design training concepts, content, delivery and methods of assessment, incidentally illustrated by this outline process.

Training Process Ideas and Outline

Here is a relatively simple overview of typical reference models, processes and tools found in the effective planning and delivery of organisational training.

1. Assess and Agree Training Needs

Conduct some sort of training needs analysis. Another method example of assessing and prioritising training is DIF Analysis

This commonly happens in the appraisal process. 
Involve the people in identifying and agreeing relevant aligned training

Consider organisational values and aspects of integrity and ethics, and  spirituality, love and compassion at work as well as skills. 

Look also at your recruitment processes - there is no point training people if they are not the right people to begin with.

Why people leave also helps identify development needs.

2. Create Training or Development Specification

Having identified what you want to train and develop in people, you must break down the training or learning requirement into manageable elements. 

Attach standards or measures or parameters to each element.

The 360 degree process and template and the simple training planner (also in PDF format) are useful tools.

Revisit the 'skill-sets' and training needs analysis tools (also on the performance appraisals page - they can help organise and training elements assessment on a large scale.

There is also a flow chart to help design the process of identifying weaknesses and planning improvements and a form for employees to complete.

For employers, there is a table for reviewing training and development elements.

3. Consider Learning Styles and Personality

People's learning styles greatly affect what type of training they will find easiest and most effective. 

Look also at personality types. Remember you are dealing with people, not objects. People have feelings as well as skills and knowledge.

The Erikson model is wonderful for understanding more about this, as is the  Johari Window model.

Consider the team and the group. Adair's theory helps as well as the Tuckman model.

4. Plan Training and Evaluation

Consider evaluation training effectiveness, which includes before-and-after measurements.

The Kirkpatrick model especially helps you to structure training design.

Consider Bloom's theory too, so that you can understand what sort of development you are actually addressing.

Consider team activities and exercises.

See the self-study program design tips below - the internet offers more opportunities than ever.

5. Design Materials, Methods and Deliver Training

Presentation is an important aspect of delivery. 

See also running meetings and workshops

Good writing techniques help with the design of materials.

So do the principles of advertising - it's all about meaningful communication.

There is a useful training providers selection template on the sales training page, which can be adapted for all sorts of providers and services.

There are many different training and development methods. On-the-job training, informal training, classroom training, internal training courses, external training courses, on-the-job coaching, life-coaching, mentoring, training assignments and tasks, skills training, product training, technical training, behavioural development training, role-playing and role-play games and exercises, attitudinal training and development, accredited training and learning, distance learning - all part of the training menu, available to use and apply according to individual training needs and organisational training needs.

Training is also available far beyond and outside the classroom. More importantly, training - or learning, to look at it from the trainee's view - is anything offering learning and developmental experience. Training and learning development includes aspects such as: ethics and morality; attitude and behaviour; leadership and determination, as well as skills and knowledge.

Development isn't restricted to training - it's anything that helps a person to grow, in ability, skills, confidence, tolerance, commitment, initiative, inter-personal skills, understanding, self-control, motivation (see the motivation theory section), and more.

If you consider the attributes of really effective people, be they leaders, managers, operators, technicians; any role at all, the important qualities which make good performers special are likely to be attitudinal. Skills and knowledge, and the processes available to people, are no great advantage. What makes people effective and valuable to any organisation is their attitude.

Attitude includes qualities that require different training and learning methods. Attitude stems from a person's mind-set, belief system, emotional maturity, self-confidence, and experience. These are the greatest training and development challenges faced, and there are better ways of achieving this sort of change and development than putting people in a classroom, or indeed by delivering most sorts of conventional business or skills training, which people see as a chore.

This is why training and learning must extend far beyond conventional classroom training courses. Be creative, innovative, and open-minded, and you will discover learning in virtually every new experience, whether for yourself, your team, or your organisation. If you want to make a difference, think about what really helps people to change.

Many of these methodologies are explained on this website. Explore them and enjoy them, and encourage others to do the same.

All supervisors and managers should enable and provide training and development for their people - training develops people, it improves performance, raises morale; training and developing people increases the health and effectiveness of the organisation and the productivity of the business.

The leader's ethics and behaviour set the standard for their people's, which determines how productively they use their skills and knowledge. Training is nothing without the motivation to apply it effectively. A strong capability to plan and manage skills training, the acquisition of knowledge, and the development of motivation and attitude, largely determines how well people perform in their jobs.

Training - and also enabling learning and personal development - is essential for the organisation. It helps improve quality, customer satisfaction, productivity, morale, management succession, business development and profitability.

As regards conventional work-related training planning, and training itself, these are step-by-step processes - see and download a free training process diagram. More free training tools are available for download at the free training tools and resources page.

See for example the training planner and training/lesson plan calculator tool, which are templates for planning and organising the delivery of job skills training and processes, and transfer of knowledge and policy etc. See also the training induction checklist and planner tool.

Use these tools and processes to ensure that essential work-related skills, techniques, and knowledge are trained, but remember after this to concentrate most of your 'training' efforts and resources on enabling and facilitating meaningful learning and personal development for people. There is no reason to stop at work-related training. Go further to help people grow and develop as people.

Having said this, we do need to start with the essentials, for example induction training for new starters. Induction Training is especially important for new starters. 

Good induction training ensures new starters are retained, and then settled in quickly and happily to a productive role. Induction training is more than skills training. It's about the basics that seasoned employees all take for granted: what the shifts are; where the notice-board is; what's the routine for holidays, sickness; where's the canteen; what's the dress code; where the toilets are. 

New employees also need to understand the organisation's mission, goals and philosophy; personnel practices, health and safety rules, and of course the job they're required to do, with clear methods, timescales and expectations.

Managers must ensure induction training is properly planned - an induction training plan must be issued to each new employee, so they and everyone else involved can see what's happening and that everything is included. You must prepare and provide a suitable induction plan for each new starter. Here's a free induction training checklist.

These induction training principles are necessarily focused on the essential skills and knowledge for a new starter to settle in and to begin to do their job. However there is great advantage in beginning to address personal development needs, wishes, opportunities, particular strengths, abilities, talent, etc., during or very soon after the induction process. The sooner the better.

An organisation needs to assess its people's skills training needs - by a variety of methods - and then structure the way that the training and development is to be delivered, and managers and supervisors play a key role in helping this process.

People's personal strengths and capabilities - and aims and desires and special talents (current and dormant) - also need to be assessed, so as to understand, and help the person understand, that the opportunities for their development and achievement in the organisation are not limited by the job role, or the skill-set that the organisation inevitably defines for the person.

As early as possible, let people know that their job role does not define their potential as a person within or outside the organisation, and, subject to organisational policy, look to develop each person in a meaningful relevant way that they will enjoy and seek, as an individual, beyond the job role, and beyond work requirements.

If possible 'top-up' this sort of development through the provision of mentoring and facilitative coaching (drawing out - not putting in), which is very effective in producing excellent people. Mentoring and proper coaching should be used alongside formal structured training anyway, but this type of support can also greatly assist 'whole-person development', especially where the mentor or coach is seen as a role-model for the person's own particular aspirations.

It's important that as a manager you understand yourself well before you coach, or train or mentor others:

Are your own your own skills adequate? Do you need help or training in any important areas necessary to train, coach, mentor others? What is your own style? How do you you communicate? How do you approach tasks? What are your motives? 

These all affect the way you see and perform see the training, coaching or mentoring role, and the way that you see and relate to the person that your are coaching, or training, or mentoring. Your aim is to help the other person learn and develop - not to create another version of yourself. When you understand yourself, you understand how you will be perceived, how best to communicate, and how best to help others grow and learn and develop.

And it's vital you understand the other person's style and personality too - how they prefer to learn - do they like to read and absorb a lot of detail, do they prefer to be shown, to experience themselves by trial and error? Knowing the other person's preferred learning style helps you deliver the training in the most relevant and helpful way. It helps you design activities and tasks that the other person will be more be more comfortable doing, which ensures a better result, quicker. Various models and tests are available to help understand learning styles - look at the Kolb model. Look at multiple intelligences and the  VAK learning model and free learning style tests.

See also the Johari Window model and adapted theory - it's a useful explanation of the importance of open communications and strong mutual understanding among staff in organisations, and for all situations where people work together. It's also a useful model for personal awareness and self-development.

Prioritising Training

Given the vast range of skills and other competencies which can be developed in people it is useful for some sort of prioritising to take place so that training focuses on the areas which will yield best benefit, in other words, return on investment (typically in terms of organisational performance, although the needs of teams and individuals can also be very significant in prioritising training and development, depending on the situation).

In addition to the skill-sets and training needs analysis tools on this website, here are three other examples of methods for prioritising training:

Essential/Desirable - simply and quickly define each activity (skill, competency, whatever) according to whether it is essential or desirable for the job purpose and organisational performance. Training priority is obviously given to developing essential competencies.

Importance/Competency matrix - the highest training priorities are obviously the activities (skills, competencies, whatever) which are high importance (of task to organisational performance) and low competence (of trainee skill level).

high importance and low competence = high training priority high importance and high competence = low training priority
low importance and low competence = low training priority low importance and high competence = zero training priority

DIF Analysis - DIF stands for Difficulty, Importance, Frequency. DIF Analysis is a sophisticated (and potentially very complex) method of assessing performance, prioritising training needs and planning training, based on three perspectives: Difficulty, Importance, and Frequency. The system looks at tasks and activities (or skills, competencies, whatever) rather than looking at development from a personal individual perspective. 

DIF Analysis can be used in different ways: for example as a flow diagram to consider each activity using a simple yes/no for each of the three factors in sequence of Difficulty (yes/no), Importance (yes/no) and Frequency (yes/no), which generates eight possible combinations. 

At a simple level, an activity that scores low on all three scales is obviously low priority; whereas an activity that scores high on all three scales is a high priority. Weighting (significance of each factor relative to the job purpose/aims) is required in order to optimise the usefulness and relevance of the system, especially if applied to a group or organisation. 

Analysis can become extremely complex, so it is sensible to ensure that the level of analysis is appropriate for the situation before starting to build complex analysis systems. 

For such a potentially detailed system, DIF Analysis does not automatically take account of personal preferences and potential capabilities, and as such consideration to this aspect is wise where trainee commitment is influential upon development, which in most situations is the case. 

The Skill-set and TNA tools on this website could, given modest expertise in spreadsheets and logic, be adapted to manage DIF Analysis, although better dedicated DIF Analysis tools exist.

Other methods exist for prioritising training. Choose or develop a method which is appropriate for your situation. Resist the tendency to become overly detailed. Analysis and detail should always be a means to an end (to achieve effective training and development), not an end in themselves.

Ultimately the best way to prioritise training is can be simply to agree with the trainee what they are most keen to commit to. All the analysis and detail in the world will not guarantee trainee commitment, which is generally the most powerful force for effective training and development.

Task-based analysis is important for organisational development measurement and planning, but approaching training prioritisation from purely a task perspective ignores the vital personal factor.

Developing People and Capabilities

Many organisations face the challenge of developing greater confidence, initiative, solutions-finding, and problem-solving capabilities among their people. 

Organisations need staff at all levels to be more self-sufficient, resourceful, creative and autonomous. This behaviour enables staff can operate at higher strategic level, which makes their organisations more productive and competitive. People's efforts produce bigger results. It's what all organisations strive to achieve.

However, while conventional skills training gives people new techniques and methods, it won't develop their maturity, belief, or courage, which is so essential for the development of managerial and strategic capabilities.

Again, focus on developing the person, not the skills.

Try to see things from the person's (your people's) point of view. Provide learning and experiences that they'd like for their own personal interest, development and fulfilment. 

Performance and capability are ultimately dependent on people's attitude and emotional maturity. Help them to achieve what they want on a personal level, and this provides a platform for trust, 'emotional contracting' with the organisation, and subsequent skills/process/knowledge development relevant to managing higher responsibilities, roles and teams.

Participative workshops work well in beginning this type of attitudinal development. Involve people right from the start. Focus on what they want. You could also use a personal development questionnaire to begin to set the scene and provide examples of 'alternative' learning opportunities. 

It starts with the person, not the skills. It's about attitude and emotional maturity. The  Emotional Intelligence principles and methodologies fit very well with modern approaches to developing people's belief, maturity and attitude.

When people develop confidence, integrity, emotionally, they automatically become more proactive, solutions-focused, responsive, etc., which across a whole team has a cumulative effect. Johari is a useful model too. 

So many people at work are simply 'going through the motions', acting in a 'conforming' state, often because they feel insecure, lack confidence to do what they think is right, or are nervous about being bold, whereas boldness is absolutely required for self-sufficiency, initiative, greater responsibility; in fact all of the behaviours that organisations strive to encourage.

You can't 'teach' boldness - people have to experience things which enable them to feel bolder, to take risks, and to want to take risks.

This means the rewards must be there too, or people have no reason to stick their necks out. And not just the prospect of financial reward. More importantly the Herzberg-type motivators - real extra responsibility, recognition, and involvement in new successful and interesting projects. This is the fuel of people's growth and change.

Designing Self-Study Training and Learning Programmes

The same basic principles apply to designing self-study programs as to any other sort of training design.

The internet enables self-study learning and development programs to be more useful, empowering and cost-effective than ever before.

The only limits are those you imagine. Be creative and innovative. Look on the web for ideas and self-study and self-development resources, methods, groups, and technologies. There are many.

This website is effectively a self-study program. It's not a particularly conventional one, nor an accredited or measurable one. Like any sort of learning it will appeal to some people but not others.

As ever consider what you seek to achieve, before you design how to achieve it.

Know yourself as a trainer (and/or encourage this among your trainers), and help trainees and learners to know themselves. Then it is easier to decide how and what will help best.

To help you structure and design and assess learning, read the training design and evaluation materials on this page and elsewhere on the website, for example the Kirpatrick evaluation and design model, the  learning styles and multiple intelligence theories, and the Bloom learning domains taxonomy model.

The group selection recruitment and assessment centre guide is also relevant. Assessment and development are tightly connected.

To help you understand yourself read the materials relating to personality and motivation, such as Erikson's theory, the personality styles theories, and the ideas of MaslowHerzbergMcGregor, etc.

Designing a good self-study program should by its nature if possible involve the students.

Involving people from the beginning increases ideas, relevance and commitment.

Mentoring: Linked to Projects and Objectives Activities

Linking mentoring with objectives and project tasks or activities is a highly productive and effective modern method of training and developing people in organisations, especially for staff in teams and departments, and for developing organisations themselves

The approach builds on management by objectives (MBO's) principles, but is more participative, voluntary and inclusive. By comparison, MBO's are a 'one-way street'; isolated and individually separate, prescribed along a single-channel towards a task focus. 

Well-facilitated 'activity focused mentoring' is consensual, team-orientated, with a personal development and team building focus, across multiple organisational interfaces, particularly to and between management/subordinate/peer levels. 

Activity focused mentoring methods also help develop systems (not IT and processes, but overall systems: ie., how an organisation works), organisations, management and communications, in an open, dynamic, organic, three-dimensional way. 

 The activity-mentoring approach uses several integrated techniques which produce more reliable and relevant training and learning outputs, in terms of individual skills, attitudinal development, and direct job and organisational performance improvement. The approach is facilitative rather than prescriptive, and broadly features:

  • strategic assessment of organisational and department priorities and 'high-yield' training needs
  • interpreted discussion with line-managers of training delegates and strategic managers of the organisation
  • pre-training skills/behavioural needs-analysis - all training delegates - and pre-training preparatory work
  • small groups - practical workshops - short sessions - highly participative and situation/solution-based - focused on practical job issues, individual personality/learning style and organisational priorities
  • individually agreed tasks and assignments - focused on practical priorities and individual needs (SMART and WIIFM factors)
  • follow-up coaching and mentoring one-to-one support - giving high accountability and reliable deliverables
  • ongoing feedback and review with line-managers and strategic managers - coaching/task notes for line managers

The process works on several different levels: individual, team, task, organisational and strategic. Activity focused mentoring also gives strong outputs in skills, behaviour and job priority areas, as well as being strongly motivational and where necessary resolving conflict and attitudinal issues.

Cost Analysis and Justification

Mentoring can be provided in various ways and programmes take a variety of shapes. Mentoring can be external, where the mentoring is essentially provided by external people, or an internal activity, using mentors within the organisation.

Due to the relative newness of mentoring as a formal organised process, and because mentoring programmes are so varied, statistics as to general costs and returns across industry are not easy to find. Here however are general cost indicators for a program essentially delivered by internally appointed mentors.

The main elements of a mentoring programme that carry quantifiable cost would be:

  • Training of mentor(s) - comfortably achievable for £1,000/head - it's not rocket science, but selection of suitable mentor is absolutely critical - good natural mentors need little training; other people who are not ready or able to help others can be beyond any amount of training.
  • Mentor time away from normal activities - needs to be a minimum of an hour a month one-to-one or nothing can usefully be achieved, up to at most a couple of hours a week one-to-one, which would be intensive almost to the point of overloading the mentee. That said, there may be occasions when the one-to-one would necessarily involve a whole day out for the mentor, for instance client or supplier visits. Say on average a day a month including the associated administration work, particularly where the mentoring is required to be formalised and recorded.
  • Overseeing the program, evaluating and monitoring activity, progress and outputs - depends on the size of the program, ie., number of mentors and number of 'mentorees' - if the mentoring is limited to just a single one-to-one relationship then it's largely self-managing - if it's a programme involving several mentors an mentorees then estimate an hour per quarter (3 mths) per one-to-one mentoring relationship - probably the responsibility of an HR or training manager. If this person with the overview/monitoring responsibility needs external advice you'd need to add on two or three days external training or consultancy costs.
  • (Mentoree time away from normal activities - effective mentoring should ideally integrate with the mentoree's normal activities, and enhance productivity, effectiveness, etc., so this is arguably a credit not a debit.)

Principles and Techniques

Rather than simply give the answers, the mentor's role should be to help the 'mentoree' find the answers for him/herself. While giving the answers is usually better than giving no help at all, helping the mentoree to find the answers for him/herself provides far more effective mentoring, because the process enables so much more for the mentoree in terms of experience of learning

Give someone the answers and they learn only the answers; instead mentors need to facilitate the experience of discovery and learning. The mentor should therefore focus mentoring effort and expectations (of the person being mentored especially, and the organisation) on helping and guiding the mentoree to find the answers and develop solutions of his/her own.

Accordingly, many of the principles of mentoring are common to those of proper coaching, which are particularly prominent within life coaching. You should also refer to aspects of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and Sharon Drew Morgen's Facilitative Questioning methodology.

Mentors need to be facilitators and coaches, not tutors or trainers. Mentorees need simply to open their minds to the guidance and facilitative methods of the mentor. The mentor should not normally (unless in the case of emergency) provide the answers for the mentoree; instead a mentor should ask the right questions (facilitative, guiding, interpretive, non-judgemental) that guide the mentoree towards finding the answers for him/herself.

If a mentor tells a mentoree what to do, then the mentoree becomes like the mentor, which is not right nor sustainable, and does not help the mentoree to find his/her own true self.

The mentor's role is to help the mentoree to find his/her own true self; to experience their own attempts, failures and successes, and by so doing, to develop his/her own natural strengths and potential.

We can see parallels in the relationship between a parents and a child. If a parent imposes his or her ways, methods and thinking upon a child, the child becomes a clone of the parent, and in some cases then falsifies his or her own true self to please and replicate the model projected by the parent. The true self might never appear, or when it begins to, a crisis of confidence and purpose occurs as the person tries to find and liberate his or her true self.

When we mentor people, or when we raise children, we should try to help them develop as individuals according to their natural selves, and their own wishes, not ours.

Establishing a Mentoring Service

There are very many ways to design a mentoring programme, whether within an organisation, or as a service or help that you provide personally to others.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself. The answers will move you closer to what you seek to achieve:

What parameters and aims have you set for the mentoring activity?

What will your mentoring programme or service look and feel like?

What must it achieve and for whom?

What are your timescales?

How will the mentoring programme or activity be resourced and managed and measured?

What type of design and planning approach works best for you? (It makes sense to use a design and planning approach that works for you.)

What are your main skills and style and how might these influence the programme design?

What methods (phone, face-to-face, email, etc) of communication and feedback are available to you, and what communications methods do your 'customers' need and prefer?

What outputs and effects do you want the programme to produce for you, and for the people being mentored?

How might you build these core aims, and the implied values and principles, into your programme design?

How can you best measure and agree that these outputs - especially the agreed expectations of the people being mentored - are being met.

How can you best help people in matters for which you need to refer them elsewhere?

What skills, processes, tools, experience, knowledge, style do you think you will need that you do not currently have?

What do your 'customers' indicate that they want in terms of content, method and style or mentoring - in other words what does your 'target market' need?, and what parts of those requirements are you naturally best able to meet?

Mentoring is potentially an infinite demand upon the mentor so you need to have a clear idea of the extent of your mentoring 'offering'.

Establishing clear visible parameters enables proper agreement of mutual expectations.

General Training Tips

These tips apply essentially to traditional work-related training - for the transfer of necessary job- or work-related skills or knowledge.

These tips do not apply automatically to other forms of enabling personal development and facilitating learning, which by their nature involve much wider and various development methods and experiences.

When planning training think about:

  • your objectives - keep them in mind all the time
  • how many people you are training
  • the methods and format you will use
  • when and how long the training lasts
  • where it happens
  • how you will measure its effectiveness
  • how you will measure the trainees' reaction to it

When you you give skills training to someone use this simple five-step approach:

  1. prepare the trainee - take care to relax them as lots of people find learning new things stressful
  2. explain the job/task, skill, project, etc - discuss the method and why; explain standards and why; explain necessary tools, equipment or systems
  3. provide a demonstration - step-by-step - the more complex, the more steps - people cannot absorb a whole complicated task all in one go - break it down - always show the correct way - accentuate the positive - seek feedback and check understanding
  4. have the trainee practice the job - we all learn best by actually doing it - ('I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand' - Confucius)
  5. monitor progress - give positive feedback - encourage, coach and adapt according to the pace of development

Creating and using progress charts are helpful, and are essential for anything complex - if you can't measure it you can't manage it. It's essential to use other training tools too for planning, measuring, assessing, recording and following up on the person's training.

Breaking skills down into easily digestible elements enables you to plan and manage the training activities much more effectively. Training people in stages, when you can build up each skill, and then an entire role, from a series of elements, keeps things controlled, relaxed and always achievable in the mind of the trainee.

Establishing a relevant 'skill set' is essential for assessing and prioritising training for any role. It is not sufficient simply to assess against a job description, as this does not reflect skills, only responsibilities, which are different. Establishing a 'behaviour set' is also very useful, but is a more difficult area to assess and develop.

More information and guidance about working with 'Skill-Sets' and 'Behaviour Sets', and assessment and training planning see training evaluation, and  performance appraisals, and other related linked articles on this site. Using Skill-Sets to measure individual's skills and competencies is the first stage in producing a training needs analysis for individuals, a group, and a whole organisation. You can see and download a free Skill-Set tool and Training Needs Analysis tool the free resources page.

This will not however go beyond the basic work-related job skills and attributes development areas. These tools deal merely with basic work training, and not with more important whole person development, for which more sophisticated questioning, mentoring and learning facilitation methods need to be used.

Psychometric tests (and even graphology - handwriting analysis) are also extremely useful for training and developing people, as well as recruitment, which is the more common use. Psychometric testing produces reliable assessments which are by their nature objective, rather than subjective, as tends to be with your own personal judgement. Your organisation may already use systems of one sort or another, so seek advice. See the section on psychometrics. Some of these systems and tools are extremely useful in facilitating whole-person learning and development.

Some tips to make training (and learning, coaching, mentoring) more enjoyable and effective:

  • keep instructions positive ('do this' rather than 'don't do this')
  • avoid jargon - or if you can't then explain them and better still provide a written glossary
  • you must tailor training to the individual, so you need to be prepared to adapt the pace according to the performance once training has begun
  • encourage, and be kind and thoughtful - be accepting of mistakes, and treat them as an opportunity for you both to learn from them
  • focus on accomplishment and progress - recognition is the fuel of development
  • offer praise generously
  • be enthusiastic - if you show you care you can expect your trainee to care too
  • check progress regularly and give feedback
  • invite questions and discussion
  • be patient and keep a sense of humour

Induction training tips:

  • assess skill and knowledge level before you start
  • teach the really easy stuff first
  • break it down into small steps and pieces of information
  • encourage pride
  • cover health and safety issues fully and carefully
  • try to identify a mentor or helper for the trainee

As a manager, supervisor, or an organisation, helping your people to develop is the greatest contribution you can make to their well-being. Do it to your utmost and you will be rewarded many times over through greater productivity, efficiency, environment and all-round job-satisfaction.

Remember also to strive for your own personal self-development at all times - these days we have more opportunity and resource available than ever to increase our skills, knowledge and self-awareness. Make use of it all.

Recognising Development: Letter Examples

As an employer or manager, take the time to recognise and thank employees for successfully (or unsuccessfully) completing training and development courses, projects or challenges. Receiving recognition is a powerful motivator and stimulant towards further training and personal development.

And yet the opportunity to acknowledge people's achievements is often overlooked. A simple letter of congratulations - especially in this age of disposable emails, or a mention in a company magazine or newsletter is often all that it takes to give people a huge boost.

An email, or even a verbal 'well done' or pat on the back is better than nothing at all, but a letter is a very powerful indeed. Think about it: A letter, sent to the home address, is special. It's on official letterheaded paper. It's personally signed. It took time and care to write, sign and send. It's something people tend to keep. It is likely to be opened so that the partner or family sees it too, which dramatically adds to the power of the recognition. So, an email is good, but not nearly so impactful as a letter.

Here's are some short examples of simple sample letters of congratulations or encouragement for completing training and development aims, successfully, and also encouragement for unsuccessful effort, when some people need a boost more than ever.

Letters of recognition and congratulations are appropriate from line managers, and higher up the organisation especially. An individual signed letter of congratulations from the MD or CEO is a hugely motivational event in most employee's lives. People's valiant failures deserve recognition too, and often help the person to keep positive, and keep striving to succeed in the future.

Remember that training and development is not restricted to training courses. Projects, delegated tasks, job-swaps, temporary postings and other responsibilities can all be forms of learning and development and are worthy of recognition when carried out well, or encouragement when a brave effort fall short.

Adapt these examples to give encouragement to people when they are striving to improve and achieve. It can make the difference between them wanting to try again or not.

Sample Letter of Congratulations

(name, home address, date)

Dear ..........

My warmest congratulations to you on your completion of your ............... training course/programme on (date).

Your achievement (of ...... qualification/accreditation) is richly deserved, and is a great example for others to follow.

I encourage you to continue to strive towards further personal development.

Best wishes, etc.

Sample Letter of Recognition of Successful Effort

(name, home address, date)

Dear ..............

I am writing to give you my personal appreciation for a job well done when you recently ................................ .

I recognise this was a tough challenge for you. The way you handled the demands and pressures is an inspiring example to others.

You will I suspect go on from this to greater challenges and achievements in the future.

Keep up your excellent efforts.

Best wishes, etc

Sample Letter of Recognition of Unsuccessful Effort

(name, home address, date)

Dear ..............

I realise that your recent failure to achieve/complete ................................ qualification/course will have been a disappointment to you.

However, I wanted to let you know that I was greatly impressed by your efforts and attitude in approaching your challenges, and I have every faith that you will succeed on your next attempt.

The lessons we learn from our failures are often even more valuable than the experience we gain from our successes.

Keep up your excellent efforts.

Best wishes, etc

Leadership and Management Training and Development: Processes Overview

Here's an overview of some simple processes for training and developing management and leadership skills, and any other skills and abilities besides. Use your own tools and processes where they exist and are effective. Various tools are available on the  free resources section to help with this process, or from the links below.

Refer also to the coaching and development process diagram.

  1. Obtain commitment from trainees for development process. Commitment is essential for the development. If possible link this with appraisals and career development systems.
  2. Involve trainees in identifying leadership qualities and create 'skill/behaviour-set' that you seek to develop. Training and development  workshops are ideal for this activity.
  3. Assess, prioritise and agree trainee capabilities, gaps, needs against the skill/behaviour-set; individually and as a group, so as to be able to plan group training and individual training according to needs and efficiency of provision. Use the skill/behaviour-set tool for this activity. Use the training needs analysis tool for assessing training needs priorities for a group or whole organisation.
  4. Design and/or source and agree with trainees the activities, exercises, learning, experiences to achieve required training and development in digestible achievable elements - ie break it down. Use the training planner to plan the development and training activities and programmes. Record training objectives and link to appraisals.
  5. Establish and agree measures, outputs, tasks, standards, milestones, etc. Use the SMART task model and tool.

Training and development can be achieved through very many different methods - use as many as you need to and which suit the individuals and the group. Refer to the Kolb learning styles ideas - different people are suited to different forms of training and learning.

Exercises that involve managing project teams towards agreed specific outcomes are ideal for developing management and leadership ability. 

Start with small projects, then increase project size, complexity and timescales as the trainee's abilities grow. Here are examples of other types of training and development. Training need not be expensive, although some obviously is; much of this training and development is free; the only requirements are imagination, commitment and a solid process to manage and acknowledge the development. The list is not exhaustive; the trainer and trainees will have lots more ideas:

  • on the job coaching
  • mentoring
  • delegated tasks and projects
  • reading assignments
  • presentation assignments
  • job deputisation or secondment
  • external training courses and seminars
  • distance learning
  • evening classes
  • hobbies - eg voluntary club/committee positions, sports, outdoor activities, and virtually anything outside work that provides a useful personal development challenge
  • internal training courses
  • attending internal briefings and presentations, eg 'lunch and learn' format
  • special responsibilities which require obtaining new skills or knowledge or exposure
  • video
  • internet and e-learning
  • customer and supplier visits
  • attachment to project or other teams
  • job-swap
  • accredited outside courses based on new qualifications, eg NVQ's, MBA's, etc.

Management Training with No Guarantee of a Management Job

Training people, especially graduates, young rising stars and new recruits, is commonly linked to the veiled promise of or allusion to management opportunity. But what happens when the organisation is unable to offer a management promotion at the end of the training programme? This is a familiar pattern and challenge in many organisations. How can you encourage people into a management development programmes, with no assurance of a promotion into management at the end of it?

The problem lies in the mismatched expectations at the outset: the trainee hopes (which develops into an expectation) for promotion. The organisation cannot (quite rightly) guarantee that a management job will be offered. No wonder that it often ends in tears, and what should have been (and actually still is) a positive experience, namely the learning and experience achieved, turns into a crisis for HR to diffuse, because the trainee feels let down and disappointed.

Here's a different way to approach management development:

First, come back a few stages and consider the values, beliefs and real nature of the emotional, spiritual and personal development that these people (the management trainees) might need and respond to most. Then you'll find it easier to define an honest set of expectations on each side (the graduates and the employer).

If the 'training' is positioned as a possible step towards a management promotion, people will become focused on the wrong expectations and aims, and when, as most of them will do, people fail to achieve a promotion they will feel they have failed, and the experience turns sour.

Better to design the 'learning' as a 'significant personal development experience' in its own right, with absolutely no promise of a job or a promotion at the end of it. That way everyone's (employer and employees) expectations match openly and honestly, and people are all focused on enjoying and benefiting from the learning as the central aim, rather than continually hoping that the management job happens, or in the case of the employer and program manager, preparing to defend and appease folks at the end when there's no job.

Added to which, by defining and designing the programme as personal development, enrichment, experience, life-learning, etc (there are many highly appealing and worthy ways to specify and describe a programme like this) - and not being afraid of doing so - you will attract the right sort of people into it; ie., the more emotionally mature and positive ones, who want to do it for the learning and experience, rather than purely for the chance of a promotion into management.

The irony of course is that students who respond to a learning and personal enrichment opportunity per se, with no guarantees or allusions to management promotion, will be the best management candidates of all.

Tips for Assessing Organizational Training Effectiveness

Look at and understand the broad organisational context and business environment: the type, size, scale, spread, geography, logistics, etc., of the business or organisation. 

This includes where and when people work (which influences how and when training can be delivered). Look also at the skills requirements for the people in the business in general terms as would influence training significance and dependence - factors which suggest high dependence on training are things like: fast-changing business (IT, business services, healthcare, etc), significant customer service activities, new and growing businesses, strong health and safety implications (chemicals, hazardous areas, transport, utilities). 

Note that all businesses have a high dependence on training, but in certain businesses training need is higher than others - change (in the business or the market) is the key factor which drives training need.

Assess and analyse how training and development is organised and the way that training is prioritised. Think about improvements to training organisation and planning that would benefit the organisation.

Review the business strategy/positioning/mission/plans (and HR strategy if any exists) as these statements will help you to establish the central business aims. Training should all be traceable back to these business aims, however often it isn't - instead it's often arbitrary and isolated.

Assess how the training relates to the business aims, and how the effectiveness of the training in moving the business towards these aims is measured. Often, training isn't measured at all - it needs to be.

Look at the details and overview of what training is planned for the people in the business. The training department or HR department should have this information. There should be a clear written training plan, including training aims, methods, relevance and outputs connected to the wider aims of the business.

Look also at how training relates to and is influenced by appraisals and career development; also recruitment, and general ongoing skills/behavioural assessment. There should be process links between these activities, particularly recruitment and appraisals, and training planning. Detailed training needs should be driven substantially by staff appraisals. (It goes without saying that there should be consistent processes and application of staff appraisals, and that these should use suitable job performance measures that are current and relevant to the operations and aims of the business.)

Look particularly at management training and development. The bigger the business, generally the bigger the dependence on management training and development.

Look at new starter induction training - it's critical and typically a common failing in situations where anything higher than a low percentage of new starters leave soon after joining.

Look for the relationships between training, qualifications, job grades and pay/reward levels - these activities and structures must be linked, and the connections should be visible to and understood by all staff.

Look especially at staff turnover (% per annum of total staff is the key indicator), exit interviews, customer satisfaction surveys, staff satisfaction surveys (if they exist) for other indicators as to staff development and motivational needs and thereby, training deficiencies.

Look for any market research or competitor analysis data which will indicate business shortcomings and weaknesses, which will imply staff training needs, obviously in areas of the most important areas of competitive weakness in relation to the business positioning and strategy.

Look to see if there is director training and development - many directors have never been trained for their roles, and often hide from and resist any effort to remedy these weaknesses.

Base training recommendations and changes on improving training effectiveness in terms of:

  • relevance to organisational aims
  • methods of staff assessment
  • training design/sourcing
  • training type, mix and suitability, given staff and business circumstances (consider all training options available - there are very many and some are relatively inexpensive, and provide other organisational benefits; in-house, external training courses and seminars, workshops, coaching, mentoring, job-swap, secondment, distance-learning, day-release, accredited/qualification-linked, etc)
  • remedies for identified organisational and business performance problem areas, eg., high staff turnover, general attrition or dissatisfaction levels, customer complaints, morale, supplier retention and relationships, wastage and shrinkage, legal and environmental compliance, recruitment difficulties, management and director succession, and other key performance indicators of the business (which should be stated in business planning documents)
  • comparative costs of different types of training per head, per staff type/level
  • measurement of training effectiveness, and especially feedback from staff being trained: interview departmental heads and staff to see what they think of training - how it's planned, delivered, measured, and how effective it is

Measuring and Increasing Training Days or Hours per Person

Measuring training hours per person as an average across the organization, typically per year, is often a useful training and development KPI (Key Performance Indicator) of the training function - more training acronyms here. If you can't measure it you can't manage it, the saying goes.

The degree of difficulty in measuring training time per person depends on what you define as training: training time per person on training courses is relatively easy to measure, but on-the-job coaching, informal mentoring, personal reading and learning - these are less quantifiable - you'd normally need to get this data from the employees via a survey or other special report.

It is possible to manage 'training time per person' aims and data via annual appraisals, when training past and future could be quantified - this could be a relatively simple add-on to whatever appraisal system you are using currently, and could relatively easily be cascaded via managers.

Your previous year's total training course time - i.e., 'person-days' spent on training courses - divided by number of employees in the organization is an easy start point. This will give you the average training course time per employee, and if you have no other benchmarks is as good a start point as any. Then perhaps agree a sensible target uplift on this, assuming the training requirement is linked to organisational aims and personal development, rather than training for the sake of it just to increase the hours per person. You can make this calculation for a team, a job grade, a department or a whole organisation.

You could also survey the managers as to their estimate of how much on-the-job-coaching they provided per person as an average during a week. This gives another benchmark, albeit it an estimate, for which you can target an uplift and then monitor via managers reporting back every month or quarter. 

Remind managers to include, and if possible to categorise all the different sorts of training and coaching that takes place, as they will tend to forget or ignore certain types, for example; job cover, training at meetings, taking on new tasks and responsibilities, delegated tasks, shadowing, etc. Training comes in various forms - if you are measuring it make sure you don't underestimate the level of activity.

Training Planning Factors

These guidelines essentially deal with conventional work skills training and development. Remember that beyond this, issues of personal development and learning, for life, not just work, are the most significant areas of personal development to focus on.

To plan traditional training of work skills and capabilities that links to organisational performance improvement you must first identify the organisational performance needs, gaps, and priorities. 

These are examples of typical training drivers which give rise to training needs. It is rare to use all of these aspects in determining training needs - select the ones which are most appropriate to your own situation, the drivers which will produce the most productive and cost-effective results, in terms of business performance and people-development:

Examples of Training Drivers

  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • Business performance statistics and reports.
  • Financial reports and ratios.
  • Competitor analysis and comparison, eg SWOT analysis.
  • Management feedback on employee needs, including from appraisals.
  • Training audits, staff assessment centres.
  • Staff feedback on training needs.
  • Director-driven policy and strategic priorities.
  • Legislative pressures.
  • Relevant qualification and certification programmes.
Use the results and indicators from the chosen driver(s) to produce prioritised training needs per staff type, which will logically enable staff and management to achieve improvements required required by the organisation.
There are several free training needs analysis and planning tools on the free resources section which might help you assess and analyse staff training needs, and then construct training plans.

Potential Conflict Between HR/Training Function and Business Management

Conflict can arise between HR/Training and other parts of the organisation, commonly due to differing priorities among performance management functions within a business, and notably relating to training, development and welfare of staff. If so, you need to identify conflict and manage it. 

Conflict is often caused by the different aims of the departments, and you need to facilitate understanding and cooperation on both sides. 

This is especially important in order to achieve successful training needs assessment, training design, planning, delivery and optimal take-up and implementation. 

Aside this, there are very much deeper implications for organisations seeking to be truly cohesive, 'joined-up', and aligned towards common set of corporate aims and values. 

If you see any of the following symptoms of conflict, consider the root cause and facilitate strategic discussion and agreement, rather than limit your activity to simply resolving or responding only to the symptom.

  • management resisting release of staff for training due to day-to-day work demands
  • short-term needs of performance management vs long-term outlook of HR
  • HR have no line authority over trainees therefore cannot control training take-up
  • Training is rarely well followed-through once delegates are back in jobs, despite HR efforts to achieve this via managers
  • HR budgets are often cut if profits come under pressure

Generally conflict would stem from the values and priorities of directors, managers and staff involved, and the aims and processes of the different HR functions. 

Here are some subject headings that serve as a checklist to see that the aims and priorities of HR/Training align optimally with those of other departments (the list is not exhaustive but should enable the main points of potential misalignment to be addressed):

  • profit, costs, budgets
  • well-being of staff
  • ethics and morality in treatment of staff
  • legal adherence
  • business strategy
  • training and development needs (skills, knowledge, EQ, etc)
  • succession planning
  • assessment and appraisals
  • promotion
  • recruitment
  • age, gender, disability
  • policies
  • harassment
  • counselling
  • workforce planning
  • management structure
  • decision-making and approval processes
  • outsourcing
  • contracts of employment
  • corporate mission and values
  • acquisitions and divestments
  • premises
  • pay and remuneration plans and market positioning
  • use of agencies
  • advertising and image

Training for Groups of Mixed Abilities

In many training and teaching situations it is not possible to identify and assemble groups of delegates whose needs, experience and ability levels closely match each other.

Groups will therefore often comprise of trainees and learners who have different levels of experience, and/or abilities, styles, expectations, needs, aims, etc.

This places additional demands on the training provider/facilitators to ensure that the needs of all delegates are met, while not causing any frustration or boredom for delegates who already know or possess certain parts of the information and abilities (or think they do) that the teaching seeks to transfer.

As such it is often helpful for trainers and delegates to acknowledge and accept this situation at the beginning of the course or training session, with the purpose of reducing potential frustrations and negative reactions and effects as far as possible.

Here is a suggested introductory statement, which aims to achieve a commitment to understand the needs of others. You will notice that the statement is designed to appeal to the mature and responsible nature that exists in virtually all people. The challenge is to tap into this at the outset, in order to set a positive constructive atmosphere and standard of behaviour for the training. Adapt it to suit your own situation.

This special training introduction is additional to any other introduction that you'll be using to outline the training aims, domestic arrangements, fire-drill, etc.

The statement or an adapted version can also be included within the introduction section of training course notes and manuals.

Example training introduction for groups of mixed abilities and needs:

Training Introduction - Please help to make this course/session as positive and helpful for all delegates

While every effort has been made to design this course/session to appeal to the needs of all delegates, it is almost inevitable that each of you will have slightly (and in some cases significantly) different past experiences, levels of ability and knowledge, personal skills and styles, and needs and expectations.

Therefore during this course/session some of the learning might already be known or familiar to you.

Please bear in mind that this will not be the case for all of your fellow delegates. We are all different.

As such we would greatly appreciate your cooperation, tolerance and awareness as to the needs of others on this course.

If you find yourself thinking that you've 'heard at all before' please take a few moments to think:

Have you really 'heard it all before', or are you overlaying your own experiences onto some new ideas? This is not an unusual reaction among very capable people when confronting new ideas, so first it's good to test your initial reaction - it would be a pity to miss out.

If you are convinced that the training is covering an area that you know well please then consider how to make the best of this situation.

If you know the area well, look for opportunities to make constructive suggestions and to provide helpful examples to the group. Trainers and facilitators have a tough job to do and will generally appreciate constructive help and participation from senior or experienced members of the group.

If you find yourself completing exercises much quicker than your fellow delegates, look to help others, especially if the trainer or facilitator is working alone with a large group, and especially if other members are struggling.

If you find yourself knowing the answers to lots of the questions that arise during the training, consider if less experienced delegates will benefit from working out the answers for themselves, with some prompting from you if helpful. Nobody ever learned much from answering an easy question, but we learn a lot from helping someone else who finds a question difficult.

Delegates who help the group as well as learn new things for themselves, invariably get the most from training courses.

Thank you in anticipation of your understanding and contribution towards making this a helpful session for everyone.

Adapt this training course introduction to suit the situation. It is more relevant to mixed groups of delegates from different experience and skills backgrounds than to groups which have been selected according to closely matching needs and ability levels.

This sort of statement can be included at the beginning of course notes, or given as a separate handout (as a sort of philosophical scene-setter), and/or explained and discussed verbally with the group.

In any event it's good also to seek agreement from the group that the concept of making the most constructive use of time and everyone's ability to contribute, is the right and proper approach.

The message to training course delegates is effectively: that learning new things is an enjoyable rewarding part of life and personal development, and so too is helping others to do the same.

Resources for Training and Development

We all need to maintain and develop our value in the marketplace.

Then we will always be in demand.

Two generations ago, jobs were for life - now some careers last just five or ten years.

The world is changing faster.

Organisations, and everyone individually, must be able to assess their capabilities, and re-skill when necessary.

Trainers, teachers, coaches, managers and leaders are central to these assessing and re-skilling processes.

Whether you are a trainer, specialist, manager, leader, entrepreneur, whatever, building your own resources will enable you to maintain and grow your capabilities and value, and to help others do the same.

Here are some questions and answers about building training and development resources.

Building Resources

(I am grateful to Dawn Barclay of Potential Developments for raising the subject of building personal resources, prompting this additional section and the Q&A format.)

Q. What do we mean by resources in the context of learning and development?

A. Resources are -

materials and tools of various types, which:

  • describe
  • define
  • explain
  • summarise
  • teach
  • and/or enable the acquisition, improvement, or delivery of -
  • skills
  • knowledge
  • methods
  • techniques
  • attitude
  • and/or behaviour
  • and thereby, performance, results, fulfilment, well-being, and other good outcomes. 

Resources can therefore be all sorts of things. For example, a single tiny inspirational quotation is a resource. And a big organisational learning and development manual is a resource.

More example of resources are:

  • team building games or exercises
  • testing instruments for individuals and teams (psychometrics and other assessments)
  • guides to a concepts or theories or models
  • spreadsheets or other analytical tools
  • case studies and best practice examples (good case studies are always in demand)
  • samples and examples - of anything relevant to your field or specialism
  • templates and forms
  • surveys and especially survey results
  • statistics and reports
  • contracts and legal documents
  • manuals and guides
  • specifications and project briefs
  • plans of all sorts
  • diagrams, pictures, cartoons
  • books, magazines, journals, newsletters and newspapers (especially newspaper cuttings)
  • films, videos and clips
  • pieces of music
  • puzzles, tricks, and games
  • quizzes and questions and answers
  • websites or a webpages (favourites or links)
  • CDs and DVDs
  • physical props - real samples, or props as metaphors like a hammer or a lemon
  • items of curiosity and collectibles - diversity and history are powerful perspectives for teaching and learning
  • personal contacts, or a network of contacts - yes people are resources too.

The list goes on. Anything which helps you and/or others to learn or improve is a resource.

The most powerful resources are those which enable significant relevant improvement quickly and easily - whether for yourself or for others, and especially for others.

Q. Who can/should build resources - just trainers and teachers - or everyone?

A. Everyone can and should build their personal learning and development resources.

If you are a trainer, teacher, coach, manager or leader, you will already be building resources of various sorts to help yourself and to help others.

If your work does not obviously involve helping and developing others, it could do one day, and meanwhile you can/should build resources to develop your own capabilities and your market value.

Q. Why build your personal resources?

A. Because we all need to learn and develop in order to maintain our personal relevance and value.

As we grow we have increasing opportunities to help others, and whether you pursue these opportunities as an informal mentor, or in a formal people-development or leadership role, you will be more helpful and valued if you have good resources.

Having good resources gives you a greater chance of providing answers, solutions, ideas, examples and tools.

People who build personal resources tend to attract respect and followers.

Resources are also tools which enable positive change.

People who have resources and know how to use them become to central to any group or organised activity.

Consider the many people who don't really bother to keep or collect or refine personal resources.

To whom do these people turn when they need help?... They turn to the ones with the resources.

Q. What about 'raw' and 'finished' resources?

A. Note: Permissions and attributions are significant in the use of certain resources.

The difference between 'raw' and 'finished' resources is important:

A raw resource is anything you think will be useful but is not yet refined or focused for a particular purpose.

A raw resource is not yet packaged or re-written or presented in a polished way. It might be an idea written in a notebook.

A cutting from a newspaper or magazine is a simple example of a raw resource. A book, from which you might later extract data or excerpts or quotes, is also a simple example of a raw resource. An old photocopied diagram is a raw resource. And more up-to-date, so is a web page from Wikipedia, or a slideshow full of useful facts, research, statistics and graphs.

Often you will not know precisely what a particular resource will eventually be used for. You might only need a small part of it.

Within reason, it's easy to keep and store resources these days because many resources are already digitised, and most resources that are not digitised can be.

Resources can be refined, focused, packaged or re-packaged, extracted, updated, re-oriented - whenever and however you need them.

Given today's modern desktop editing and publishing technologies, even the rawest of resources can swiftly be converted into effective finished resources. This is even easier when you have a designer or creative agency at your disposal.

Not all raw resources are converted into learning and development aids:

Many raw resources find their way into reports, business plans, sales presentations, or into the systems of organisations and teams. Some raw resources find their way into best selling books. Other resources help to make the ethos and strategies of world-beating new corporations.

The expression was: 'Knowledge is Power'.

The truth is now: 'Resources are Empowering'

Start building your resources now.

Q. What formats and types of media are best?

A. Raw resources can be in any format and media. Convert them into a format useful for keeping and finding them if you can do so easily.

Finished resources need to be in a format and media type appropriate and friendly for the audience or learners or users.

The format and media of finished resources should also be appropriate for your delivery or operating strategy.

If resources are refined and developed they can become an offering or business in their own right. Many information-based websites began in this way.

The modern digital age provides wide-ranging possibilities for the production and offering of finished resources.

Mobile technology especially offers amazing potential for the delivery of finished resources.

Ultimately consider your audience/users' needs, and ensure your chosen media works well for your operating methods and strategy.

Q. Where can you find resources?

A. Resources can be found everywhere.

For example:

  • The web, especially websites offering reliable reference materials and tools.
  • University websites are usually an excellent source of reliable resources.
  • Libraries - although nowadays much under-used, libraries are fantastic places for resources.
  • Bookshops and online booksellers, including used books, which can be remarkably inexpensive.
  • Institutes and associations and societies. Every field or trade has its own governing or representative organisation. These tend to be centres of expertise and knowledge. Most have their own libraries too.
  • Work tools that you use or create - spreadsheets and templates especially - can be very useful resources for the future.
  • Many resources come free and very easy, for example, ironically, junk mail can be a useful source of good and bad examples of all sorts of business and communications.
  • Training courses and classes of all sorts naturally contain many resources that can be re-used, adapted and re-cycled.
  • Resources of a social/historical or amusing nature can be found easily and cheaply at Sunday car-boot markets or jumble sales, or when you next clear out an old attic or your childhood toybox.
  • Use your imagination. Training and teaching becomes immensely more enjoyable when quirky (but still relevant) props and materials are introduced into proceedings.

That last point illustrates the wide range of things which can be resources. Not all resources must be academic and business-like; many can be entertaining, fun and quirky.

Avoid habitually using only the web for resources. Only a fraction of the world's knowledge and information is on the world wide web.

Often the best and resources are found 'off the beaten track' so to speak, especially if you seek resources in a particularly specialised field.

Be creative, imaginative and original.

Q. How can resources be developed?

A. Your personal resources - whether for yourself or for helping others - can be an extension of you and how you want to be, and what you seek to become.

So try to develop your resources so that they say something about you. Be selective. You obviously can't keep everything of potential use or you'd not have time to do anything else.

Devise a way of keeping resources which is manageable and searchable. Chucking everything into a big cardboard box is probably better than not collecting anything at all, but there are better ways of organising things in terms of space and finding what you need later. Devise a system that works for you.

Develop your resources like you would build a team or organisation around you, to help you achieve your aims and goals in life.

Develop resources that will help you to go where you want.

Imagine to yourself: "If I were doing my ideal future job what sort of personal resources would I need?"

Build your resources to fit your aims.

Give yourself time. A world-beating (aim high) set of resources in any field takes a while to build.

So start now.

In a few months you could be better resourced than anyone you know personally in your field.

In a year or two you could be better resourced in your field than anyone else anywhere. This is achievable if you focus and truly put your mind to the task.

You can, as the saying goes, stand on the shoulders of giants.

Q. What about permissions and attributions?

A. Since copyright law is complex and cannot be covered in depth quickly and easily, here broadly are some simple guidelines for using resources in the context of learning and development:

If you wish to use any resource created by someone else you must consider whether you should seek permission for your particular usage.

Many resources, especially if extracted in part, are free to use for teaching and training and self-development, however if you publish or sell material ('intellectual property' - IP as commonly called) which belongs to somebody else, then this would normally require permission and perhaps licensing and payment.

In general, the more you exploit somebody else's IP, then quite understandably the more likely that the 'somebody' will require something in return.

Showing some trainees a newspaper cutting to illustrate a point on a training course would be highly unlikely to attract any issues copyright or permission. On the other hand, using a 5,000 word training guide written by someone else, in your own training manual, without suitable permission from the writer, is not a good thing to do and could create a potential liability for you.

If in doubt ask. And if you cannot ask then take some time to understand copyright law as it applies in your situation, (there are free guides to copyright law available on the web) and make your own judgement.

The use of material without proper permission and/or attribution undermines the credibility and integrity of the user, and can lead to more serious problems if an IP owner considers that their rights have been seriously breached. That said, permissions and attributions can generally be resolved if approached positively and sensibly.

Whatever, there are countless resources which attract no liability at all, so if you find a great resource but it contains challenging IP implications, then find something else to use instead.

Q. What about accuracy - checking and researching - and 'currency' (being up-to-date)?

A. Accuracy and reliability are very important aspects of teaching/training resources.

Check your facts. Do not rely on the web alone for crucial data. The web can be wrong - and if the web is wrong on one page, it can be wrong on other pages too, given the tendency for web-based information to be copied.

Books can be wrong too of course, but good reference books are generally far more reliable than the web.

A useful approach to gathering information resources is to use the web for the bulk of the research, and then to check the crucial facts in a suitable reliable reference book.

Certain resources are time-sensitive - that is to say, they become obsolete or unhelpful or worse, if not updated.

Conversely, many other resources are timeless. It also depends on your usage.

A 1995 guide to using the internet would be useless as a modern guide to using the internet, but as a resource to illustrate how the internet changes, it would be quite useful.

The ease by which you can establish accuracy and maintain currency ('up-to-dateness') should be a big factor in your consideration of what sort of resources to collect.

The area in which you work has a bearing on these aspects:

Certain areas - like law, finance, safety, for example - are strongly sensitive to whether resources are current. Other disciplines - like motivation and coaching - are far less sensitive to whether resources are current, but are arguably more sensitive to whether resources are entertaining and unique.

Accuracy and reliability are important for all resources, unless the obsolete or inaccurate nature of the resource is the purpose of its use (for irony, example of 'how not to..', etc).

Currency (up-to-dateness) of resources is crucial for certain materials and tools, but not so for others.

Use your judgement. Be aware of the pitfalls, and avoid them by considering currency and accuracy when you gather and develop your resources.

Q. What about building connections with experts?

A. As suggested above, people are resources too.

Experts and good quality people of all sorts can help you build more and better resources. They can help you adapt and develop resources, and give vital feedback when you wish to expand your activities.

Experts and good quality people can also help you with using and implementing your activities and plans.

This item doesn't focus on the value of people networks and networking, because that's big different subject, nevertheless, the development of contacts is an important part of your own development, so try to do it.

Successfully building and maintaining good connections with experts and good quality people must be based on your giving them what they need in return, whatever that might be (different people want and need different things - provided its legal and ethical). So ask experts and good contacts what they want from you and what you can do to help them.

People who take only, and give nothing in return, never build and sustain good connections with anyone.

Consider that high-achieving expert people are not generally interested in money or material gain. They are more interested in growth and self-actualisation motivators. See the theories of MaslowHerzberg, etc.

In summary:

Building and maintaining good quality relevant resources will help you become independent and self-sufficient - in work and life.

This is because people who have great resources tend to be:

  • Well-developed individuals - knowledgeable, skilled, up-to-date - with answers to other people's questions.
  • Capable of teaching, training, mentoring and leading others.
  • Capable of enabling and assisting change in groups and organisations - using clever tools and materials.
  • Able to convey to others the enjoyment and advantages of always seeking and finding answers and solutions.

Resources help answer questions, which is one of the essential needs of life and work.

Resources - of one sort or another - are generally required for improvement in anything - whether a small improvement or realisation for a single individual, or the development and launch of the mightiest corporation.

If you build effective relevant resources, you naturally become more relevant and effective yourself.

Tips for Starting your Own New Training Business

Here are some simple tips for starting your own new training business.

Much more detailed business start-up help is available on other pages, listed below.

These are just a few important tips especially for starting a new training businesses.

When choosing the type of training to offer think carefully about it and avoid making assumptions or being drawn into too many areas.

Starting your own training business is in some ways a simple transition from being employed as a trainer, coach, team leader, manager, etc., however a big difference is now that you have to find the work before you can do it.

On this point, your previous employer can easily be a prime prospect for you. Even if you leave on less than perfect terms, a previous employer is a good opportunity for securing freelance training work, not least because when people leave an organisation, there is usually a gap and a period of uncertainty regarding the leaver's previous responsibilities. 

Lots of employers fail to ask leavers if they can fill in for a while on a contract basis. Ask. In any event, especially if you were well-regarded know their systems, you'll be a safe choice for them if they need some help, so keep in touch and (assuming you are not immediately stacked out with work from other customers) let your previous employer know you are happy to fill gaps in provision after you've gone.

Expect to negotiate a (sometimes significantly) higher freelance day-rate compared with your previous employed wage. Organisations account for ad-hoc freelance training quite differently to employed staff costs. Many newly self-employed trainers offer themselves too cheaply. 

See the negotiation page. If in doubt, see what they offer before you suggest a rate - you could be very pleasantly surprised, particularly if they are in a bit of a panic and need a 'safe pair of hands' quickly.

Aside from your previous employer(s), finding new training contracts or selling training courses entails marketing and advertising - in competition with others operating in the same market place. This could be a new and significant consideration for you. Marketing and selling training is different to designing and delivering training, and involves different issues.

You must now consider what you can market and sell successfully, as well as it being something that you can design and deliver successfully. This requires you to consider the market place, not just the quality of your training.

So when you choose what training to offer and especially how to package, describe and deliver it, ask yourself questions based on the following points, so that you develop training types, services, offerings and delivery which:

  1. you can offer with very appealing uniqueness and passion
  2. ideally have good and increasing demand
  3. are not strongly served by competitors
  4. are relevant to industries you are comfortable with, and
  5. can be marketed in a very specific focused way, to decision-makers that you can reach cost-effectively.

Whether a website and online marketing will feature strongly in your business approach or not, 'Google Trends', and Google's Adwords keywords tracker (to access it open an Adwords account), are two excellent tools for evaluating online search trends and relative volumes in training (and for anything that people look for), which greatly assists answering some of the questions above, especially understanding demands, trends and what people are looking for and how they describe it (all of which can be quite different to what you imagine).

From a vital personal perspective, also look at the 'passion-to-profit' process/template on this website because this helps consider how best to combine your greatest personal potential with a business proposition. You may choose not to use the process in detail, but consideration of its underlying meaning is fundamentally important towards building a sustainable thriving business in any area of product/service provision.

Choose a business name carefully. Many people successfully use their own name along with a generic word or a few words related to training, because:

  • this usually avoids any future problems with copyright (especially the potentially disastrous and easily made mistake of breaching someone else's rights or trademark)
  • and it says that you are the boss and have the confidence and integrity to have your name as the business name.

If you choose a 'clever' or obscure business name, think very carefully about it because it will have risks (like this website name, which might have failed without the luxury of many years to become established), either or both in terms of copyright protection/breach, and/or misinterpretation or confusion.

Although copyright and trademark law is complex, broadly descriptive business names are less easy to protect, and also less likely to breach someone else's trademark. Non-descriptive business names need to be checked against existing use, especially registered names, which means that when secured they tend to be easier to protect. The UK government intellectual property website is a useful information and research resource.

Contrary to lots of advice you'll see from financial and legal folk, becoming freelance (self-employed in other words) is very easy in terms of legal and regulatory set-up. I refer to the UK. In some other nations it will be a little more difficult, in others even easier. In the UK you do not need a limited company. You do not need a VAT number. You simply need to inform your tax office, which actually is a good source of advice about starting up.

If you have plans of substantial scale then seek qualified legal and financial advice, but for many new training business start-ups a freelance/self-employed approach is perfectly adequate for the authorities and the market place, as well as being very quick and inexpensive for the freelancer.

Public liability insurance is advisable because without the protection of a limited company you have unlimited personal liability for any damages arising against you. Many customers and venues insist on trainers having public liability insurance anyway. It's not necessarily very expensive, and is different to professional liability insurance of the sort that lawyers and doctors and high-powered consultants typically need, when potential liabilities run to £millions rather than a few £thousands. That said, insurance is a personal matter for you to decide and resolve as you think reasonable. I merely offer general pointers.

When starting a new business, especially from a marketing/advertising viewpoint, it's usually more effective to focus on a small number of strong unique specialisms - or even just a single very powerful offering - than to offer a one-stop shop or wide catch-all range. A good specialist will usually beat a widely-spread generalist in any single area.

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