Monday, June 18, 2012

Determining the purpose of training

Like in the case of any other business, the training business within an organization begins with determining the very purpose of offering training. This might seem obvious but I find very often that Training Managers in the business haven’t exactly asked themselves or their management these fundamental questions. Why are we offering training? A clear answer to this question is often the starting point for the Training Manager to think through, plan, prioritize and most importantly seek the required funding from upper management. 

Most CEOs pay plenty of lip-service to training but don’t back up their training managers with the required resources. The Training managers for their part often fail to ask the right questions of their upper management when it comes to making the case for the required resources and funds to build a training business how so ever small it might be. If I got a few pennies each time I heard a training manager say “I don’t have those kinds of funds” I will be writing this piece from my permanent beach house in a far away exotic island. In this article I hope to provide some ammunition or at least some food for thought for Training managers especially those who think that they don’t have the funds but still entertain great dreams of building a successful training offering.

At a high-level, training offered by organizations can be for direct, easily measurable benefits for the organization. For example, it can be for the purpose of generating revenue. i.e., it is a profit-motive. In such cases, it’s often a case of calculating the ROI. How much does it cost to deliver training both in terms of costs for technology, the time of the course developers, instructors etc. How much revenue can I generate? If the case for an acceptable ROI can be made, then the next question boils down to how quickly can I scale this business? Are my costs going to increase significantly in order to scale the business or does my business scale with incremental cost increases?
Can I generate revenue by better utilizing my resources? These are just a handful of questions. But in general, if Training is viewed as a profit generation vehicle in your organization then things are relatively cut and dry and it boils down to how much of an investment the management is willing to put into the business and how effectively it can add to the bottom line. 

In other cases, training might be offered for in-direct benefits. For example, customers get better value from your products when they are better trained. This in turn could result in customers buying more of your products/services. But this is often hard to measure and quantify although clearly there is a direct benefit to the organization realized through this indirect means. 

When customers are better trained it results in reduced number of support calls. The reality is that every time a support call comes in, the organization incurs a cost. Not to mention, depending on how easily the issue is resolved the customer might be happy or frustrated with your product and this could impact sales. Besides, better trained employees means greater employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and organizational efficiency among other benefits. 

Another use of training employees is to improve productivity. Once again, an indirect benefit, whose impact is often hard to measure and quantify. Yet another benefit of training is to better educate your partners so they can help with product sales. If you partners are better trained they will be better positioned to talk about your core value proposition and address objections from their prospects. Once again, better training, translates to a more knowledgeable and effective partner network. 

In some organizations training is offered for both direct and indirect benefits. These are just a few examples of the importance of training to an organization. If an organization is serious about realizing the full potential of training, its leadership at various levels must be willing to allocate the required resources to make its training effort a reality.  Once this is in place then its a question of execution, followed by analysis of the success metrics and the learner feedback and constantly tweaking the offerings to maximize returns.