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Opinion: Customize, evaluate training for payoff

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To reach sales and profit goals, staff training is critical, and exceptional customer service is imperative for achieving maximum client retention rates.

To avoid customer dissatisfaction and loss, it is vital that employees properly and accurately execute job duties. In-house training is an option companies can use in the new economy to positively affect companywide goals and address problems.

Customized assistance
The top question asked by management is whether the return on investment justifies the dollars spent on training. A review of two key areas will reveal if corporate revenue is being used wisely for training.

Be sure the training will be customized to meet the company’s needs. Familiarize the trainer with the unique aspects of the business and the issues being faced. Information provided during training will then be relevant and specifically geared toward corporate objectives, instead of being generic. Group interactions, team exercises and questions asked by participants all will be pertinent to the company and its industry.

With in-house training, attendees will feel more freedom to mention and discuss internal problems and challenges than they would in a public training setting with strangers. All team members will hear the same information, resulting in fewer miscommunications and misunderstandings, and less wasted time and effort – and accountability will increase.

It’s also important to confirm the material learned is actually used. Give associates time to incorporate the information into day-to-day work. Make sure supervisors give positive reinforcement. Ask the trainer to develop weekly follow-up modules that allow workers to practice the knowledge gained during class.

Four levels
Research shows at least 12 weeks of repetition is necessary for a permanent change in behavior to occur. To determine the success of the training at meeting goals, choose from four levels of evaluation.

The first level of evaluation is participant reaction, which can be measured through formal written comments immediately following the training and through verbal feedback. The second level involves creating, administering and scoring pre- and post-tests, which will determine whether the attendees garnered new knowledge regarding the subjects addressed and provide a statistical figure about the amount of knowledge gained.

The third level evaluates changes in behavior. Ask supervisors to numerically score the weekly follow-up modules supplied by the trainer and completed by participating employees.

Develop surveys for participants with questions requiring comments in order to ascertain how the skills taught are being applied. Create customized written or verbal surveys concerning specific skills to determine if others in the company notice the behavioral modifications desired. Assign a numerical rating to each behavior that should have been influenced by training. Use a five-point scale, with one defined as “did not impact at all” up through five, defined as “completely impacted.” Add the numbers to analyze achievements.

Use the fourth level of evaluation to further quantify results. Review changes to any existing statistical indicators in the business, such as sales, quality, error rates or customer satisfaction and retention. Compare figures calculated to the cost of the program.

Identifying companywide problems, offering customized in-house training, ensuring information taught is put into practice and evaluating results statistically will produce a solid return on investments in staff training.

Lynne Haggerman, M.S., is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, a Springfield firm specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at lynne@lynnehaggerman.com.[[In-content Ad]]

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