5 best practices for training professionals

Education | 2011. 5. 18. 07:27 | Posted by 스마트 안전보건

With the current economic downturn and signs of an emerging recovery, executives are trying to determine how to best use their organizations’ funds and resources. This may mean down- sizing human resource departments and eliminating positions for training personnel. Villachica & Stepich (2010) offer five strategies drawn from the professional literature to survive these and future trying times:

(1) align efforts with organizational missions and business goals,

(2) use training only when it addresses a gap between existing and desired performance arising from a lack of requisite skill,

(3) craft instructional objectives that describe exemplary job perfor- mance,

(4) create sound training programs that promote learning and transfer to the job, and

(5) collaborate with sponsors and other stakeholders outside the training department to pro- mote transfer of training to the job.

Training personnel who employ these strategies successfully may be able to answer executives’ common question, ‘‘What have you done for me recently that matters?’’

These practices will help executives determine their returns on training investments, managers see on-the-job behavioral change that leverages the performance of exemplary personnel, and trainees confidently apply relevant skills and knowledge to the workplace. Executives, managers, and trainees who see the value of the training they complete will be less likely to cut training budgets and eliminate the positions of training professionals.

1. Aligning Training With Strategic Business Objectives

2. Closing Skill Gaps

Phillips and Phillips’s (2002) second most common reason for the failure of training and development programs lay in a failure to recognize nontraining solutions. There is little or no payoff for developing and implementing the wrong solution, and in a variety of performance gaps, a lack of skill or knowledge is not the underlying cause.

Table above depicts both the BEM and the relative frequencies Dean obtained for each of the potential causes of a performance gap. Dean’s results indicated that causes other than a lack of skill and knowledge account for 89.4% of all performance gaps, with environmental causes alone accounting for 75.6%. Training is the appro- priate solution for closing a performance gap only when the cause lies in a lack of required skill or knowledge—about 10% of the time.

As over 45% of all potential gaps arise from a lack of information (data and knowledge), training professionals need to determine whether information to close performance gaps should reside in the environment, where people could access the directions they need to perform their tasks using a job aid, a tool, or some sort of performance support that acts as ‘‘a repository for information, processes, and perspectives that inform and guide planning and action’’ (Rossett & Schafer, 2007, p. 2) or the heads of performers, where people access internalized skills and knowledge learned in training and recalled from memory. Organizations that use job aids or performance support to address performance gaps arising from a lack of access to data can obtain desired performances without incurring costly training development, delivery, and maintenance costs.


<A flow chart for determining whether a job-aid or training is appropriate>

Harless also notes one exception to this rule: the use of quasi-training in situations where preparing and distributing a job aid has not met with as much success as introducing it in training sessions describing when and how to use the job aid in the workplace. Such quasi-training focuses on providing trainees with practice using the job aids to complete job tasks and showing howabsence of aids hinders work performance. Such quasi-training requires less time to create, deliver, and maintain than training to build fluent job performance based on recall of learned skill and knowledge.


<Illustration of outcomes in mind for a training request>

Every training request should undergo some sort of front-end analyses (Hale, 2007; Harless, 1973; Robinson & Robinson, 2008; Rossett, 1987, 2009; Rummler, 2007) to do the following:
~ Specify the gap between existing and desired performance using measurable terms.
~ Align the gap with the organization’s business goals or mission.
~ Determine whether the gap is worth closing.
~ Determine whether the gap arises from a lack of skill and knowledge rather than environmental or other potential causes.
~ Use training to address skill gaps or create appropriate nontraining performance improvement solutions (or partner with those outside the training department who can).

The mere existence of regulatory requirements does not free training departments from their obligation to conduct front-end analyses. In these situations, training personnel tasked with providing mandated training would still be wise to conduct a front-end analysis for the following reasons:
~ Aligning the required training with relevant regulations, as well as organizational missions and business goals.
~ Framing training within a larger context of exemplary job performance that includes nontraining solutions that work together to create organizational cultures and work environments that remove potential barriers to compliant behavior.
~ Focusing training on job skills that need continuous practice to be maintained or involve complex problem solving.
~ Identifying opportunities for job aids, cross-training, and modularization to minimize time spent in training while still meeting due diligence requirements.


3. Job-Focused Instructional Objectives

Mager (1962) contended that instructional objectives should consist of three parts:

~ A behavior specifying what trainees are able to do to demonstrate achievement of the objective.

~ Conditions specifying what is imposed on trainees when they are demonstrating their mastery of the objective.

~ Criteria specifying how well trainees should be able to demonstrate their achievement of the objective.


<Congruence of Performance, Condition, and Criteria of an instructional objectives>

Training professionals then use information from the task analysis to craft instructional objectives. In training situations, each component of the instructional objectives should have a distinct job focus:

~ Performance: What should people do on the job to perform in the same way that the organization’s exemplars do?

~ Conditions: Under what circumstances will they do that on the job (including cues that tell exemplarswhento perform and the resources they use)?

~ Criteria: What defines doing work well on the job (the standards that exemplary performance meets to close the skill gap and meet the organization’s mission and business goals)
3 roles of job-focused objectives

First, they act as a contractamongthe training professionalswhocreated them, the training sponsor, and the training stakeholders.

Second, job-focused instructional objectives act as a compass for instructional designers who are creating lean and effective training.

Third, job-focused objectives facilitate the transfer of learned performance to the job. 

Thorndike andWoodworth (1901) argued that the transfer of learning is a function of the number of identical elements between two environments. Their findings indicate that the greater the number of shared elements, the more transfer will occur. Training professionals promote transfer of learning when they create learning environments that resemble the job—the closer, the better. This rule ofthumbappears in the military adage, ‘‘Fight like you train and train like you fight.’’

<Job-focused instructional objectives for trainees in 4 working settings>

4. Creating sound training programs

Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841) developed a five-step teaching sequence based on his methods (Clark, 1999):

1. Prepare the pupils to be ready for the new lesson
2. Present the new lesson.

3. Associate the new lesson with ideas studied earlier.

4. Use examples to illustrate the lesson’s major points.

5. Test pupils to ensure they had learned the new lesson.

Gagne´ (1988, p. 11) formulated nine events of instruction:

1. Gaining attention.
2. Informing the learner of the objective.

3. Stimulating recall of prior learning.

4. Presenting the stimulus.

5. Providing learning guidance.

6. Eliciting the performance.

7. Giving informative feedback.

8. Assessing performance.

9. Enhancing retention and transfer

Merrill and colleagues (Merrill, 2002; Merrill, Barclay, & van Schaak, 2007) identified five underlying prescriptive principles of learning. Each corresponds to a phase of Merrill’s instructional sequence, with further guidance for each phase provided by specific corollaries.

<Merrill's Five Principles of Learning>


5. Looking outside the training department

Training professionals should collaborate with sponsors and other stakeholders outside the training program in ways that promote transfer to the job.
Georgenson (1982) estimated that only 10% of the information presented in training results in behavioral change on the job. In a study of 150 organizations, Saks and Belcourt (2006) reported that 62%, 44%, and34% of employees apply training on the job immediately, six months, and one year after training. This suggests that transfer of training to the job is complex.

Both Broad and Newstrom (1992) and Milheim (1994) suggested a variety of pretraining, training, and posttraining activities that facilitate transfer and persistence of newly learned skills on the job. As one example of collaboration, Broad andNewstrom (1992) describe a transfer partnership involving managers, trainers, and trainees ‘‘who have a strong interest in a particular trainingprogramandwhohave agreed toworktogether to support the full application of the training to the job’’ (p. 14).

Including different levels of management represents another change. For example, supervisors may need to adjust schedules to accommodate training attendance and revise productivity expectations to allow trainees to apply what they learned in training to the job. Supervisors may need to assist trainees with course selection and enforce course prerequisites. Line managers who are funding training efforts may need to provide release time and incentives for exemplary performers to share their skills with the training developers who are conducting task analyses. Managers may also need to provide resources for the collection and analysis of level 3 and 4 evaluation data. Executives may need to see aggregated training data to gauge the overall returns on their training investments relative to their competitors and to organizations’ strategic directions.

This kind of collaboration requires training professionals to look for opportunities to work with executives, managers, supervisors, and trainees to ensure that training transfers from the classroom to the job to the bottom line.


Moving from order takers to partners in improved job performance will require training personnel to adopt appropriate short- and longer-term strategies. In the short term, training personnel could focus on seizing opportunities involving low complexity and risks that offer large organizational returns.
One tactic may be to cut any training not directly aligned with organizational missions or business goals. Another tactic could be eliminating or minimizing training by providing job aids or online performance support (Rossett & Schafer, 2007). By closing gaps in performance arising from a lack of access to data or tools, this tactic places necessary standards, guidance, feedback, process, and tools in the job environment rather than in the long-termmemoryof the learner. A third tactic is to look for opportunities to partner with the organization’s information technology (IT) group to eliminate or minimize training by creating online performance support.

In the longer term, completing the move from order taker to performance partner requires training personnel to reposition their efforts to focus on performance improvement. Seen this way, training becomes one of a variety of approaches for meeting this goal, a special case of improving workplace performance. Part of the long-term strategy will require training professionals to upgrade theirownskill sets andfindopportunities to employ them in ways that focus on performance. Most of these opportunities should address identifying and removing environmental barriers, as Dean (1997) suggests they are the sources of some 76% of gaps between existing and desired performance. Other strategies are to create effective blends of performance-based training for gaps that truly result from a lack of skill or knowledge and then partner with supervisors and managers in ways that facilitate transfer and measurably improved job performance. Still other long-term strategies involve institutionalizing exemplary performance throughout the organization. These strategies would partner training personnel, executives, line managers, supervisors, exemplary performers, novices, and others in ways that create a culture of sustainable excellence throughout the organization.


Source: Surviving Troubled Times: Five Best Practices for Training Professionals by Villachica & Stepich, 2010

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