A Control System for Solving Individual Training Needs - Training and Development

Individual training needs come from all parts and all levels of the organization. The solutions to individual training needs are elusive. Even the search for solutions can be expensive: Cost per trainee is likely to be high because the population to be trained is so small.

All these facts conspire to a requirement for steady but gentle control over the processes by which organizations meet individual training needs. In practice, many individual training needs come to the attention of the T&D manager because managers say they "have this problem" or "Can you help me with the funds to send some of my people, too?" Intelligent T&D managers reinforce such initiatives and also subject them to further analysis. That analysis tests the validity of both the request and the suggested program. It asks, "Will the people learn something new? Will the program supply what they need to learn? Will the content actually be put to use on the job? If not,will the experience permit intelligent rejection of the technology in the program?"

Even if the T&D manager is not informed or involved in all the decisions, the control system is needed—and it is the responsibility of the T&D manager to see that managers at all levels comprehend and apply the system whenever they solve an individual training need.

It 's not a question of control for the sake of control. It's not a policy designed merely to keep the T&D manager informed about what's going on— although that is not an insignificant item. The reasons for a centralized, systematic decision process are many, and they go like this:

A control system for meeting individual training needs:

  • Eliminates duplicate searches
  • Increases the probability of selecting an effective, appropriate solution to the individual training need
  • Increases the probability of selecting an appropriately priced training program
  • Increases the probability that the training content will actually be applied on the job (a feedback device can be designed for each program)
  • Provides a data bank for meeting future individual training needs
  • Establishes a databank about the quality of vendor's products and services
  • Keeps the immediate superiors of all trainees actively involved in setting goals and following up each training investment
  • Makes a statement to the entire organization that training is an investment that must be justified and evaluated
  • Provides data to monitor the actual dollars being spent on training, education,and development
  • Keeps the T&D manager informed about the genuine training needs (from this data, trends may emerge; and the organization learns when individual training needs have become organizational training needs)

In other words, astute T&D managers put special stress on steps 3, 8, and 9 of the control process in Figure Step 3 deserves special attention. Especially important is the presence of three parties in the joint planning.The T&D department is obviously involved—but just as important is the active involvement of both the trainee and the immediate superior of the trainee.

Without their inputs there is no real assurance that the learning content will be useful to the organization, that they will be properly reinforced after they have been acquired—or even that the trainee understands the purpose of the training. However, the basic message of the process chart is the need for central control.

When individual training needs are solved from any source (inside or outside the organization), the process should not be hit-or-miss. Such decentralization produces chaos in the form of poor decisions, wasted money, duplicated search, and lack of follow-up to ensure that the organization gets its money's worth and puts the learning content to work.

The theme of those advantages is application and accountability. A word of caution applies here. The reservation that needs to accompany the policy is an admonition:"Be gentle." In other words, the T&D staff must use tact during the performance or cost-benefit analysis of an individual training need—or when denying the funds for one. With diplomacy, the logic of the system appeals to most managers.

control system for meeting individual training needs

Control process for solving individual training needs.

If there has never been a control system to govern the way individual training needs are met, the T&D manager might very wisely institute the control system one step at a time. Perhaps it should start with only the most expensive investments;after that, it can gradually be applied to additional cases until it becomes the norm. It's probably just good psychology, good politics, and good management to reinforce with liberal decisions those managers whose requests are most valid and most cost-effective. (If we were discussing reinforcement theory,we'd call it "successive approximations") Furthermore, if the control system is valid, it will gradually earn its own good reputation.

The alternatives to such gentleness are frightening. T&D managers who are too rigorous, too hard-headed, will soon experience some unhappy consequences.

First,they will receive fewer requests for their consultative services. Second, they will grow increasingly ignorant about the many employees who attend special training; that is to say, client-managers who want training will find a way to get it—whether they find the proper training through the proper channels or go the "bootleg route."

These are the days of assessment centers, appraisals, career development, and career planning through outreach programs and tuition assistance. At their best, all these are part of a long-range individual training and development system. The T&D manager wants to be a major factor in the design of those programs for individuals and in the follow-up and evaluation that refines the programs and gives their real impact to the individual and the organization.


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