Most of training programs are a waste of time, cost and effort.

Published on Tuesday 3 April 2012 by in Blog with no comments


Jan Schilt MSc HRD | GamingWorks | Netherlands

We all read those articles about IT projects failing, we all read the articles about people are your biggest asset, we are listen to presenters at conferences who explain that ITSM is all about people. We are all listen and read and think to ourselves: “Yes, they are all right.” But what are you going to do about this?



I suppose you either still send your employees to expensive training or you have decided to stop sending your employees to training due to the crisis. In both cases the challenge is the same; How can you create real return of investment of your training efforts and not waste time, costs and effort?

One thing is for sure, since most of the companies skipped their Human Resource Development department there is an enormous lack of focus on training as an instrument to develope the Human Capital.

This article will guide you through 5 crucial tips to get more out of your training effort in terms of:

  • Results in terms of lower costs, higher customer satisfaction rates
  • Sustainable behavioral change
  • Improved motivation and retentions of employees
  • More return of tool and framework implementation

Tip 1 – Make sure you only send your employees to training to solve problems! not to just get a head full of information or a certificate.

In fact learning is solving problems. If you don’t arrive on time at your work, and could loose your job, you will try to get your driving license. Your are motivated to learn how to drive because losing your job is a problem. If your IT team is not able to meet the Service Level Requirements and you will get financial penalties from the customer, this is a Problem. Find a training which teaches your team to learn how to develop and execute a Service Improvement Cycle . If the users are complaining about the customer focus of your Service Desk, organize a training to improve the customer focus of the Service Desk. Make employees aware about the problem, the consequences and the desirable behaviors and other expectations. Working on real problems means that employees are motivated to look for relevant solutions. This also means that other ways of gaining knowledge become available. Think about asking other companies, look on the internet, social media, conferences or buy a book. More effective and efficient and low effort. This may all sound logical and you are thinking that is what we already do? then explain why the ABC worst practice card ‘ITIl(ITSM framework) is the goal not what you do with it’ is still a top chosen card, and when we ask people attending ITSM training why they are attending? what problem are they trying to solve? the majority do NOT KNOW, other than ‘to get the certificate’.

Tip 2 – Ensure employees are given projects and opportunities to apply their newly gained knowledge into their daily work

Many of the participants in training go back to their office without any plan to apply the new knowledge. No projects, no activities and no assignment. It should be much more effective if the employee has a short meeting with his or her manager to explore the problem that needs to be solved. In the same meeting the manager should discuss and explore the way the newly gained knowledge will be applied. For example the manager could ask the employee to prepare a proposal to improve the service level reporting. In preparation the employee will follow an ITSM training. During the intake with the training organization the employee will explain the project and the assignment. The trainer will be asked to support the employee with this assignment. After the training, the manager and the employee will meet and discuss the assignment. This is all about translating theory into practice and knowledge into results. After all the training should lead to some new, improved behavior and ability.

Tip 3 – If the proposal from your training company is not matched with your problems you want to solve, choose another one.

I realize we I may upset a lot of training companies here, who say this is what customers ask for, ‘just give me the certificate!’. If you invite a training company to give you a proposal for a specific IT training many of the proposals will contain a list of training interventions, the price and the date. But, how many of the training companies will ask you about your problem? How many will explore what kind of competences (attitudes, behaviors and skill) you want your employees to develop? What is the target audience? How are you going to transfer the knowledge to day-to-day work? Can we customize the training in such away that we increase the effectiveness of the training,  and more of these kind of questions. These questions are crucial to design an effective and efficient training intervention. The steps in good training design are:

  1. Identify the Problem/Goals
  2. Define desirable behavior you want to achieve with this training
  3. Define competences that needs to be developed
  4. Design a training intervention

If these questions are not asked before the proposal the question you should aks yourself is whether this becomes an effective training, especially when the trainer doesn’t know the purpose of this training. I would say: “look for another training company”.

Tip 4 – Integrate learning into day-to-day work. Use meetings, coffee breaks and elevators as places to learn.

There is not always a need to invest in expensive training. Giving it attention during day-to-day work can solve a lot of issues. If the customer satisfaction is poor, management of the Service Desk should spend time during meetings to talk about this with the employees. They should explore questions like: “How do we see good customer satisfaction?” or “How do you think we are doing?” or “What do you think is the consequence of poor customer satisfaction” or “What is it you are going to do about it?”, “what ‘undesirable behavior’ do we all see that WE want to remove”?

During the coffee break management could ask questions to motivate employees. They could ask questions like: “How was your training?” or “You followed an ITIL foundation course, could you come into our meeting and give a presentation about Change Management?”, “tell us how do you think we can best use what you learnt to improve things”?.

A very popular way of learning is “Action Learning”. In this intervention a team of employees sit together with a facilitator and they explore relevant learning questions. They explore, they share, they investigate and with external experience they try to find solutions.

Tip 5 – Measure the results of your training efforts.

Kirkpatrick defined 4 levels of evaluation of training interventions.
4. Business Results (effects in terms lowering costs, increasing productivity et cetera)
3. Functioning (are employees changing behavior, changing the way they work)
2. Knowledge (certification, pass the exam)
1. Learning process (nice location, good lunch, good venue)

Research of ASTD (2004) shows that only 3% of training interventions are measure on the level of Business Results (the highest level).I do not know what the levels are now, but if the majority of people entering ITSM training do not know the problem or goals to be realized then I can only assumen the organization is highly unlikely to get the HOPED for business results they were expecting.

We are all used to measure the levels 1 and 2, but levels 3 and 4 are more difficult to measure. Measuring outcomes on levels 3 and 4 gives a much better picture of the effectiveness of the training interventions. We expect changes in the behavior of employees and from this we expect measurable effect on Business Results. A simple low effort way of measuring the results on level 3 is the following approach:

  1. Before a training intervention define what behaviors you want to observe the weeks after the training. What is the ‘undesirable behavior’ you want to remove, what is the ‘desirable behavior’you are hoping to create?
  2. Document them in a ‘Wish-document’ agree this document with the management team.
  3. Run the training intervention. Ensure the training focuses on these types of behavior, which ITSM processes or theory support this behavior?
  4. Discuss within the teams the key question: “Do we observe desirable behaviors within the teams?” Measure the behavior by using a set of questions lists. Confront each other on this ‘undesirale behavior’ when you see it. recognize and reward desirable behavior.

The best results will be achieved if you make clear to the management that they should give the right example and you discuss improvements within the management teams.

If you want to get more out of your training budget our advice is to carry out the following actions:

  1. Check how many problems are solved or getting solved due to your training programs?
  2. How many times did you assign special projects or activities to employees following training
  3. Check if your training company is interested in your problems and tries to propose cost effective, low effort and high effective solutions?
  4. Ask your HR department about the policy to train employees in a cost effective way?
  5. Start measuring the results of your training investments on the levels of changed behaviors and business results.

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