10 Ways to Maximize the Impact of Training by Ron Kaufman Training your staff is an essential investment in today's changing and

competitive environment. But just sending staff to attend training programs is not enough. You can maximize the impact of your investment by following these key guidelines for management and staff interaction "before", "during" and "after" the training program. Before the Training Program: 1. Review with staff why they were selected for the program and discuss anticipated benefits for the organization. This shifts their perspective from purely personal, "I am going to attend a training", to personal and organizational, "The organization is making an investment so I can attend a training. The purpose of this investment is to help me upgrade my skills so that our organization becomes even more competitive and productive." 2. Ask participants to talk about how they might benefit from the program. Where do they see opportunities for improvement in their own skills and/or behavior? 3. Discuss and obtain agreement from your staff on their punctuality, attendance and participation in the training program. 4. Redistribute participants' workload during their absence so they do not return to a mountain of pending matters. This helps participants keep their minds focused on the course. 5. If sending more than one participant, create a "buddy system" before they go. Buddy teams can ensure that both participants get maximum value and understanding from the training. During the Training Program: 1. If the course is more than one day long, have participants brief their managers as the course progresses. This can take the form of a short face-to-face meeting, a telephone call at the end of the day, or a summary fax written and sent overnight. Participants should identify what material was covered during the day, what new learning occurred, and what value they see in applying this learning back at work. 2. Discuss any ambiguities or uncertainties that arise. Help participants identify examples of learning points in application on the job. Help formulate clarifying questions for participants to bring back to the course instructor on the following day. 3. If there are interim assignments to complete, engage others who are not attending the course in discussions and deliberations. This brings the learning experience back into the office, building internal an support network for during and after the training. After the Training Program: 1. Meet with course participants to review: o What were the most valuable learnings from this program? o What will you do differently now at work? in which situations? o When will you begin or try this new approach? o What suggestions do you have to improve or customize the course? o Who else should attend this particular training program? 2. Discuss organizational improvement based upon the participants' new learning. Be willing to implement new suggestions on a trial basis with participants involved in tracking and implementation

How to Conduct a Needs Assessment that Gets Results By Seth Leibler, Ed.D., President & CEO, CEP Ann W. Parkman, Executive Vice President, CEP Karen VanKampen, Director, Performance Consulting, CEP Needs assessments can be valuable tools, if they are done correctly. Not only can they pinpoint training and other performance improvement needs, they can also help you determine practical and realistic solutions that can help your organization achieve the bottom-line business results it requires. This article outlines some common misconceptions about needs assessments, and offers a high-level overview of how you can effectively utilize needs assessments to help you maximize this potentially powerful tool. Why conduct a needs assessment? Needs assessments can serve as a valuable tool to help manage the rapid changes taking place within organizations today - including mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, downsizing, globalization, and technological advances, just to name a few. Needs assessments are appropriate when: • You have been asked to implement a training solution; • You have been asked to help with a performance issue; or • Your organization is implementing a change that will have a large impact on one or more areas. Many needs assessments are developed by generating a list of competencies required to perform a job well. To develop this list, the needs assessor typically asks the person whose job is being assessed (and/or his or her supervisor) what skills and knowledge are required to adequately perform this job. The list of competencies is then compared to the training content to determine if the appropriate skills and knowledge are covered. Although this form of needs assessment is expeditious, especially when time is of the essence, there are a number of traps that can prevent you from reaching the bottom-line business results the needs assessment was intended to achieve. Trap 1 - Training Isn't Always the Answer Frequently, needs assessments presuppose that training is the solution to a performance issue (in fact, it is often referred to as a "training needs assessment"). But this isn't always the case. For example, let's say your vice president of operations comes to you and says, "We need time management training. Our managers and supervisors just can't seem to get things done, so we need to teach them how to manage their time." Certainly you can implement the time management training program, but are you absolutely sure this training will solve the problem? Unfortunately, no. You may feel confident that the managers and supervisors will gain some knowledge about time management, but there's no way to be sure that they will be able to "get things done" once they've undergone time management training.

Solution Before assuming that training is the answer to a performance problem, first make sure that the problem isn't the result of a cause other than a skill or knowledge deficiency. Other common causes of performance issues include: • Unclear expectations or lack of expectations altogether; • Improper consequences or incentives; • Inadequate tools, materials or work space; and • Lack of feedback. Trap 2 - People Don't Know What They Don't Know Relying on job performers to provide you with a detailed description of the skills and knowledge required to be proficient at their jobs creates a risky foundation on which to base a needs assessment. For one thing, it's hard for anyone to articulate what, for many of us, is an internalized and almost unconscious understanding of our job tasks and skills. For another, job performers frequently cannot identify the skills or knowledge they lack to perform their jobs adequately - in other words, they don't know what they don't know. Solution It is imperative that you interview the correct people in order to maximize the quality of the information you are attempting to retrieve. Table 8.1 gives some guidelines for you to keep in mind. If you are assessing the performance of: Then: New hires • Interview managers/supervisors to determine expectations of new hires. • Interview and observe exemplary performers to determine what they do on the job to meet expectations. Those currently performing the job • In addition to the groups mentioned above, also interview average performers to determine what is getting in the way of desired performance. A new job position • Interview the people who created the position.• Interview the people who are affected by the outputs of the position's job tasks. • Interview the people to whom this position reports. • Interview the people who will work closely with the people in this new job. Trap 3 - Performance vs. Competencies For many, this is the biggest trap of all. By focusing on generating a list of competencies, it's easy to lose focus on the reason you are conducting the needs assessment in the first place - to overcome a specific performance problem or to realize an opportunity for performance improvement. At the same time, competency-based lists tend to be imprecise and vague, using fuzzy terms such as "strong leadership skills," "good facilitator," or "a supportive coach or mentor." Because these descriptions are not behaviorally based, and because they often reflect generic qualities that could apply to a wide range of people, it's difficult to teach these skills in a manner that will result in a positive behavioral change. Solution Rather than focusing on competencies, focus your needs assessment on the performance issue - the difference between what people are (or are not) doing versus what they should

be doing - so that you can identify what the performance level should be and can pinpoint relevant solutions. Here are some examples of interview questions that can help you keep your information-gathering efforts as focused as possible. • What should the target audience be doing? • What does the target audience need to know or be able to do to meet the organizational results? • What does the target audience need to know or be able to do to meet management and/or customer needs and expectations? • What does the target audience know now and what can they do now to help meet needs and expectations? • What is getting in the way of performance in terms of motivation and incentives? • What is getting in the way of performance in terms of environment (lack of tools, information, resources, time, and so forth)? How to Conduct a Needs Assessment That Gets Results There are several different ways to conduct a needs assessment. Many times, the situation will determine which way to proceed. The situational conditions that can determine your approach include: • Time available; • People who can or cannot be involved; • Politics and other sensitivities; and • Budget.

The following five high-level steps can help you in conducting a successful needs assessment: 1. Identify and clearly state the issue or opportunity for improvement, and the organizational outcomes or needs related to the performance. It's important that you understand from the beginning exactly what performance issue is being addressed, and that everyone (stakeholders, performers, etc.) has the same understanding of this issue. If the issue isn't clear, conduct a goal analysis. For example, if you've been told "the customer support staff needs to be more professional when dealing with customers," you need to dig deeper to define what being "more professional" means, since this can mean many different things to many different people and to many different organizations. Once you have clearly defined the issue, be sure your client agrees with this definition. Next, determine how solving this issue will make a difference (i.e., is the problem worth solving?). Assuming it is, then recommend ways of attacking the issue through a needs assessment. Discuss datacollection methods and the resources you might need to conduct the assessment. Also determine a timeframe for conducting the assessment. By clarifying these matters upfront, you will have all of the information you need to stay focused on the true intent of the assessment. You will also be able to link solutions to what is important to your organization. 2. Decide how you will collect the performance data. There are a number of ways to collect performance data, including interviews, observations, surveys, and source documents. You should select the combination of data-collection methods that best fits your situation. Whenever possible, consider conducting face-to-face interviews when gathering information

from people. Interviews are two-way, allowing you to ask follow-up questions or to restate your questions as needed to generate the information you are looking for. You can also find out more through face-to-face interviews by interpreting non-verbal cues. Although this method of data collection can be very time consuming and resource intensive, you will be sure to gather accurate data the first time around. 3. Analyze the data. Keeping in mind the clearly stated performance issue and how it affects the organization, document the data you have gathered by identifying consistencies and inconsistencies within the data. Be careful not to jump to conclusions at this point. Just document your findings and the facts within those findings. Once documented, identify performance gaps by comparing what the target audience is doing to what they need to be doing. 4. Conduct a cause analysis. Before deciding on possible solutions to close the performance gap, you need to first identify the causes for the gap. Is the gap due to a lack of skill or knowledge? Are there motivational or environmental barriers to desired performance? Have job expectations and necessary information been adequately communicated to the job performers? If you are unsure of the causes (that is, you do not have the data to support your cause analysis), ask more questions to determine the true causes of the performance gap. A great tool for analyzing data and figuring out the causes of performance gaps is Mager and Pipe's (1997) Performance Analysis Worksheet. This tool leads you through a series of questions that will help you identify the cause(s) of a performance gap. It will also help you identify possible solutions. 5. Identify possible performance improvement solutions. Based on the cause(s) of the performance gap, determine the best solution(s) to close the gap. Keep in mind how the performance issue links to organizational results and needs, to ensure that your proposed solution(s) are acceptable and relevant. Also keep in mind your audience's sensitivities and predispositions. For example, if the vice president of Human Resources has publicly announced that the solution will entail training, make sure that your recommendations include a training solution that is adequately supported by the data. Most likely, you will identify more than one solution, especially if there are multiple causes for the performance gap. Helpful Tips No Time for a Needs Assessment? If time is of the essence, do the best you can, with the time and resources you have, to at least: • Clearly define the issue and how it affects the organization; • Identify what the target audience is doing compared to what they should be doing; • Determine the causes of the performance gap; and • Identify solutions that will close the gap. Even an hour of fact finding with your client can uncover some of the performance gaps and the causes of these gaps. Access the Right People Be specific regarding the type of people you need to interview, and don't settle for less.

There may be times when you are asked to talk with certain people for political reasons. While it may be smart to include these people in the assessment, make sure you understand why they were asked to participate. Align All Vested Parties Because a needs assessment can be very revealing, tactfully ensure that all vested parties agree that a needs assessment must be done and that your approach to conducting this assessment is acceptable. By taking into account their sensitivities and any organizational politics, you will be more likely to secure agreement from each party. Explain Why You Are Gathering Data When gathering information from people during the assessment, be sure to clearly explain the reason for the interview or data gathering, as well as the goals of the assessment. Be sensitive, factual and diplomatic in your explanation. Sort Fact from Opinion When analyzing the data you have collected, try to ensure that you collect mostly facts rather than opinion or perception. To help clarify which is which, consider tactful ways to gain clarification (for example, "Can you give me some examples of what makes you say that?"). Don't Jump to Conclusions Be careful not to jump from the problem immediately to the solution. To ensure that your recommendations will work the first time around, you should first complete a cause analysis to uncover the real causes for performance gaps. Don't Gather Too Much or Too Little Data Be sure to prioritize your questions so that you obtain essential information first. Focus on the performance gap and the cause(s) of the gap. Keep in mind that the information in this chapter is a high-level overview of how to conduct a needs assessment that is designed to generate results. Use this information as a foundation for your approach, and be sure to adjust information as necessary based on the situation you are facing.