At a primary level, Training is understood as, “the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behavior” and at an expanded level, Training is defined as, “the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies”.

Training has specific goals of improving an employee’s capabilities, capacity, productivity, and execution. Renowned management thinkers unanimously recognize the need to carry on Training beyond initial qualifications to keep up and update skills throughout the work-life of a person.

This short article is an effort to explain the levels of Training in an ascending order of complexity, time required, and cost involved. Each level typically corroborates with the different phases of an employee’s progression in work-life. It is also necessary to appreciate that the Training has many expressions and “in-room” or “out-room” training are merely two of such expressions.

Level-1: Alignment & Configuration Training

This is like an appetizer. Every employee who joins the company, laterally or vertically, requires help for aligning with the company’s values, business culture, work style, and ‘realities’. Afterwards, an employee can learn about the company’s vision, goals, and relevant HR & business policies, from HR colleagues. Such information help the employees settle down faster in a new environment and configure their career tracks. The depth and breadth of such briefing depend on the grade of the employee in the hierarchy.

Level-2: Sustenance Training

Normal curve in the performance appraisal analysis is a ‘dreaded’ need. All those employees who are ‘fitted’ in the middle-of-the-normal-curve consistently over a period of 2-3 years, are the right audience for Sustenance Training. Sustenance Training could be for personal as well as professional requirements and ‘middle-of-the-normal-curve’ audience typically requires a mix of behavioral & functional inputs. Sustenance Training is akin to a daily meal; some employees need it 4 times, and some need it 3 times; but, they need it and starving the employees of required meals is the recipe for a possible slow-down in their performance.

Level-3: Pullback Training

At times, an employee drifts in a different direction for a variety of reasons and needs guidance for pulling him or her back. Identifying such employees and understanding their requirements is a difficult task. Only when the HR Manager is in regular touch with the employees, he or she will be able to appreciate the difficulties and offer suitable guidance & support to the concerned employees. Such support could be provided through either personal discussions or counseling by mentors or job change or in a few instances, behavioral training. The need for Pullback Training can arise more than once during the employees’ work-life.

Level-4: Growth Training

Growth Training is for employees who consistently (generally 3 consecutive years) display potential for managing responsibilities in the higher grade or more responsibilities in the same grade. The catch is the switch from ‘responsibility’ to ‘accountability’. Classically, Growth Training is a juicy mix of managerial, functional, and behavioral inputs. “The higher the altitude, thinner the air, lesser the oxygen, and more the wind-speed”. Therefore, the HR Head should develop a right mix of inputs based on the analysis of the past & present performance of the concerned employees, and their proven ability to manage in pressure situations.

Level-5: Leadership Training

“From-within-or-from-outside?” dilemma for placing the right person in the leadership position, will always puzzle the HR Heads. Independent of this dilemma, the HR Head should always be on the ‘leadership hunt’. It is like ‘fetching a pearl from the deep-sea’ and it means that the HR Head will have to dive deep in the ‘talent-ocean’ to spot the ‘pearl’. Since the increased accountability comes with more risks, it is necessary for the HR Head to distinguish between the ‘original’ and ‘dummy’ pearl, before investing in the evolutionary process of Leadership Training.

Level-6: Coaching

With the acceleration in competition, a realization has downed that one crucial mistake by the Top management can cost the company dearly. So it is now being accepted that the members of the Top management also need ‘hand-holding’. This sounds little naïve, but that is the reality. Such ‘hand-holding’ includes observing the concerned leaders in work-situations, periodically assessing their leadership styles using relevant instruments, and giving feedback. For Coaching to succeed, the coach will have to befriend the leader and the leader will have to admit that she or he requires help for unlearning, learning & relearning.

The Final Word

“Cost of training should be evened up by corresponding measurable benefits at the earliest”. This is a conventional and an outdated theory. There is an urgent need to realize that the cost incurred for training of employees is an investment and profits on this investment accrues only over a time-period.

Why then the Top Management does not treat the cost of Training as an investment? It is because the HR Heads, on many occasions, are unable to swim against the tide. Only when the HR Heads are confident, they will be able to persuade the Top management, for treating the cost of Training as an investment.

The HR Head should focus on identifying training requirements as accurately as possible and address these requirements suitably. Also, employees should be explicitly encouraged to put in action what they have learned and their superiors should be held accountable for facilitating such employees create new experiences.

The current trend is to treat Training as an option that management can choose to ignore. As the competition toughens and the knowledge & skills become obsolete at a faster rate, the trend shift to treating Training as a business strategy. Then the Top management will be able to ignore Training, but at its own peril.

Wise organizations anticipate & act, others wait & react.

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