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Should Training be an Integral Part of a Project Budget to Increase Project Profitability? 3/4

Author: Zacharias J. Beckman,

The first step toward a comprehensive program is understanding business goals. In order to demonstrate a concrete value in training, that training must clearly align with and contribute to the objectives of your business as a whole. This can mean that training programs will address time-to-market issues by making project teams more efficient; introduce new skills required for a project; enhance customer understanding or internal communication, thus better aligning teams with business goals; or introduce better risk management techniques, thus reducing incident of mistakes and getting to market faster. The important thing to remember is that training needs to tie in to organization goals. Track that alignment as the first step toward creating a line of sight, from cost through to benefit.

Next, once your business objectives have been identified, your training program can be re-engineered to create an effective learning and development strategy. Far too often, the potential benefits of training programs, workshops and coursework are lost to the organization because there is no support framework in place to make sure the knowledge is retained and put into practice. A simple example is ensuring that trainees who receive hands-on instructions for a given tool or software will have that tool or software available for use after the training. Furthermore, practice is not enough. The results must become measurable and repeatable to ensure an organization's willingness to sustain the program. This means instituting a training program that includes a support framework and monitors its results.

This is why it's important to design a process around your training program. Training that actually adds value must have three critical phases: First, the training need is discovered and planned for. Second, the training itself takes place. Finally, and most important, is the follow up: The process must provide reinforcement to the trainee and transfer of knowledge to the organization, as well as metrics to gauge the impact of the training. Without a process, and the support framework it provides to the trainee, there is no way to know the outcome of training or to oversee its application. This means having the infrastructure in place to ensure the continued practice of what the trainee has learned. Ongoing training programs are also extremely valuable: Continued short-term exposure to training workshops tend to be more effective than a single, longer session. This allows the trainee to absorb information at a slower pace, reinforce it through application, and then return for more advanced knowledge. Certification programs also reinforce knowledge acquisition by setting goals and testing to ensure the information has been fully absorbed.

Work911 has a few excellent indicators of a well established training program: " that adds value tends to be integrated with other management systems. That is, training decisions and actions are carried out with reference to performance management systems, strategic planning processes, and career development initiatives. Training must be managed so that it is planned, and deliberately and clearly linked to workplace outcomes." (Work911, 2009). Stated more simply, training in a vacuum is not going to accomplish anything.

On-site training workshops and comprehensive, hands-on process improvement programs that incorporate training elements are the most effective tools available to ensure that trainees, and the organization, fully employ the new knowledge. These programs typically involve an initial assessment to determine organization weaknesses and risk areas, target specific training and process improvement needs, and deliver a very specific program consisting of training, workshops, hands-on application, and some form of monitoring or "health check" over time to ensure the knowledge continues to be properly, and consistently, applied. A successful program must create a continuous learning environment, where learners acquire knowledge and hone their skills after the learning event is finished.

Developing a complete program addressing these fundamentals sets up the organization to measure ROI, or the value of the training program, in wonderful and explicit detail. It's the fundamental step in creating a direct line of sight from training program, through its costs and down to the company profitability and bottom line. As Jack Phillips, chairman of the ROI Institute, and Holly Burkett, Principal of Evaluation Works, point out in The Business Value of e-Learning: "An accurate ROI calculation of an e-learning program requires data collection at four levels: reaction, learning, application and impact. The impact data is isolated from other influences and converted to monetary value. This monetary value is then compared to the cost of the e-learning program. The result is an incredible ROI study." (Phillips & Burkett, 2007).

This line of sight carries value from the training investment to the business. According to Hedda Bird, Founder and Director, ROI Academy, "This process links the relative impact of the training activity's skills, knowledge and competencies to the organizational goals." She adds that, "There are a number of techniques that can be used, but initially we recommend a simple weighting of relevance. The weightings are accumulated up the line of sight from bottom to top. The end result is a diagram indicating how the skills, knowledge and competencies of a training program impact each level of the line of sight. Finally, by entering the financial value of the organizational goals at the top of the line of sight, the weightings are transformed into relative values at each level." (Bird, 2008).

Click here for Part 4 of Should Training be an Integral Part of a Project Budget to Increase Project Profitability?

About the Author

Zac Beckman, Zacharias J Beckman Zacharias J. Beckman has over 20 years experience working with several Fortune 500 clients from both the private and public sector such as Xerox®, the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, NASA, and the Department of Defense amongst others.

Currently, Zac is President & CEO of Hyrax International LLC which delivers comprehensive process improvements to its clientele. Specialities include audit and assessment of program areas such as project management, quality assurance, risk management and customer satisfaction as well as delivering focused initiatives to improve customer efficiency.

Zac is also a published author and has authored coursework in Program Management, Project Management, Risk Analysis, Software Quality Assurance, Scrum and others. He is now working on a new book, "Navigating the Methodology Maze, a roadmap to successfully adopting process in your organization" and he also runs the highly successful Rational Scrum blog.

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