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Using a Systems Approach to Implement Training Best Practice


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A Systems Approach

In today’s business environment where change is constant, technology is cheap and skill shortages are commonplace, people are the key differentiator between those businesses that succeed and those that don’t. It is little wonder then that the training and development function in an organization plays a pivotal role in moving an organization forward. But how should the training department go about its business of providing the best service possible to the rest of the organization?

The best practice training management model below recognizes the systems nature of organizations and takes an evolutionary approach to achieving best practice. What this means is that this model appreciates that the training and development function is co?dependent on the other functions within an organization for its effectiveness and, because of this co-dependence, it cannot achieve world-class performance all at once.

Looking at the co-dependence aspect more closely, some of the internal systems on which the training and development function co-depend are:

Workforce Planning – for determining the organization’s labor and capability requirements and what skills can be developed in-house and what needs to be bought from the external market.

Performance Management – for determining individual training and development needs and satisfying those needs.

Rewards and Recognition – for motivating employees to learn new skills and to apply those skills on the job.

Strategic Planning – for determining the organization’s strategic training needs and to improve the organization’s strategic planning capability.

To illustrate this co-dependence further, consider the strategic planning system. If this system is under-developed, the training function will find it difficult to identify and deliver training programs of high strategic significance. The co-dependence is illustrated by the fact that the organization’s ability to plan strategically can be improved through delivering training in strategic planning to senior managers.

Core Mission and Processes

Most would agree that the core mission of a fully developed training function could be summarized as:

“Deliver people capability required to achieve organizational objectives.”

There exist four core processes within such a training function. These four processes each serve to contribute to the achievement of the training function’s core mission. The four core processes that serve to achieve this mission are:

  1. Training Administration
  2. Program Development and Delivery
  3. Training Strategy and Planning
  4. Performance Consulting

An Evolutionary Approach to Best Practice

The evolutionary approach proposed here is called the Training Management Maturity Model as it identifies four possible levels of maturity for any training function. In particular, it offers a way for organizations to develop their training function iteratively. It describes how an organization may progressively develop these four core processes in a structured and planned approach that makes best use of an organization’s resources, and takes account of the maturity level of other internal systems.

Furthermore, moving a training function forward will expend a considerable amount of the organization’s resources – resources that are just not available in one big hit. This evolutionary approach allows the training function to develop towards best practice in a staged way as resources become progressively available.

Considering the co-dependence in particular, this approach links the four levels in the model with each of the four core processes mentioned earlier. The linkages look like the following:

Level 4 – Performance focuses on performance consulting

Level 3 – Planning focuses on training strategy and planning

Level 2 – Standards focuses on program development

Level 1 – Visibility focuses on training administration

Immature organizations are able to start at Level 1, and then as funds become available and the other organizational systems mature, it may progress to the next level and to the next, and so on. How will an organization look as it progressively implements efforts to improve the value of training and development activities?

Organizations at the primary level, Level 1 – Visibility, concentrate on getting the basic administrative processes defined and practiced rigorously.

At Level 2 - Standards, there is a focus on improving the quality of the training product developed and finally delivered. Skill gaps are identified before training begins and designers and trainers are professionally equipped to ensure that participants have learned the desired skills following the training.

At Level 3 – Planning, more emphasis is placed on mobilizing training to hit areas of greatest organizational need. Training is used more effectively as an organizational tool for achieving strategic objectives and less as discretionary expenditure in response to ad hoc requests.

Operating at Level 4 – Performance leverages off the disciplines, systems and practices put in place during the previous three stages to achieve real organizational benefits from training. The focus is unswervingly on measurable performance improvement at the level of the organization, teams and individuals. At this level, attention to training activities and inputs is only maintained in so far as they serve the achievement of organizational outcomes.

From Theory to Best Practice

How can you apply the Training Management Maturity Model to real organizations? The link to actual organizational practice is achieved through the model describing for each of the four levels a Focus, a corresponding Primary Objective, Key Practices and suggested Key Performance Indicators. The Primary Objective of each phase specifies the intended organizational outcome of efforts at that level. Each objective says what it is the organization will get by achieving the given level of maturity.

The Key Practices section then goes on to list what it is the organization needs to put in place to achieve that level of maturity. The intention here is to provide guidance on what processes and capabilities are required for operating at that level without being too prescriptive. The range of Key Performance Indicators can be used to either gauge the impact of project efforts to achieve a certain maturity level or to monitor the ongoing effectiveness of the system.

This phased approach helps to make sense of the core processes and provides guidance on which activities to concentrate for maximum impact on the road to best practice. The idea here is that improvement efforts at each level lay the infrastructure and embed the organizational practices necessary for achievement of the next maturity level.

2006 © Business Performance Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Vicki Heath is the Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd, a company providing practical online information and resources in a range of business areas, including training and development. Her company's guides, tools and templates assist organizations engage and develop people, manage organizational change and improve project delivery.

Proven experts in the following areas: project management, change management, strategic planning, business process re-engineering, culture surveys, organizational communication, training and development, business performance measurement, employee performance management, leadership and team development, organizational capability and learning, coaching and mentoring.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-09-08 18:21:49 in Employee Articles

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