Treat your Training Program as a process
By Robert Ballard
Most professionals have heard that the key to an effective training program, specifically for an Operational Excellence initiative, is “The Right People, The Right Projects”. Although that is true there is significantly more involved in creating an effective training program than just those two components. The key is to look at the training program in a holistic view and by treating your training program as a process. From this point forward the term Training “Process” will be used.
We use a common brainstorming tool to identify components of the process, the 6M’s. These would include, but not limited to:
Training Materials (Material)
- Trainees (Manpower)
- Trainers (Manpower)
- Environment (Mother Nature)
- Measures (Measurement)
- Training Exercises (Methods)
- Computer / Minitab (Machines)
As with any process we need to identify the key input variables as well as the key output variables. Ironically often times the training process fails to measure the success or failure of the training itself. The training process must be evaluated just as projects are and must be continuously evaluated for improvement opportunities. For example, are there certain exam questions that students often get wrong? Do recent college graduates have better exam scores and project results than more experienced employees? These types of questions should be considered during the evaluation of the training process.
First things first. A key output metric must be established to determine the effectiveness of the training process. There are numerous books on the market on how to measure the effectiveness of a training process so this article will not expound on this, however the importance of this cannot be overestimated. A common approach is based on the monetary improvements or ROI that is delivered by the students. Most likely there is more than one metric in play but the key takeaway is that the common statement “you can’t improve what you can’t measure”. The same applies to the Training process.
Another metric that should be considered is to measure the student’s test scores to determine if any additional time and attention needs to be given to a given topic. This too would improve the success of the training process.
The following is a list of key components of the training process, in no particular order.
Physical training materials should be legible, free of grammatical and technical errors. They should be bound in a usable format that gives the student an easy to use resource. Use of colors is preferred but if in black and white graphs must be clearly interpreted and easy to understand in the absence of color.
Minitab© is standard software package that is used in most OpEx training.
Part of the “The right people” component and a critical factor in the success of the training process. The key to the selection of the right people is identifying future leaders and those who are technical minded. The process should foster an environment where the students have the opportunity to apply the learnings from the training and retain the mindset of continuous improvement along with the long-term ability to identify and solve problems. Successful students typically have a passion to learn and an innate desire to improve processes. This starts with the hiring process but can also include seasoned employees who have shown the initiative and interest of the process.
A prerequisite is to have a nominal or advance knowledge of computers and associated software such as MSOffice. The training time will be mostly consumed for the technical topics so very limited time with MSOffice should be allotted.
Trainers can make or break the process. It is imperative that trainers have the background and experience of process improvement and must be able to put themselves in the shoes of the students. Trainers should have a passion to make the students successful and must make the sessions interesting if not entertaining.
Mentors should also be part of the process to ensure the student’s project are going in the right direction, are technically sound, and must be in alignment with the Trainers and materials. When possible the mentors and trainers should be the same person.
Laptop computers should be issued to student with the necessary software, typically Minitab and MSOffice products.
The methods component can be broken down in 2 sections. One is the method of training and secondly, the method by which the training process is evaluated.
The method of training should include a significant amount of interaction between students. The purpose is for the student to understand the tools and how many of the tools require team input. The trainer should use this opportunity to evaluate the student’s ability to lead and participate in the team dynamic.
The method by which the training process is evaluated would require an evaluation of the testing that is done during the process. The purpose would be to analyze the test scores data to determine if there are certain topics that students consistently struggle with. If a deficiency is found the trainer should reevaluate the time and energy given to the given topic or topics. This is a critical part of treating the training as a process, evaluation of the process, and subsequent improvement.
An FMEA, Failure Modes and Effects Analysis is another OPEX tool that should be utilized in the process. This tool would identify potential failures of the process and will generate an action plan to address those failures. Potential failures, such as training room availability, absenteeism, and participant retention through the duration of the training are just a few examples of potential failures.
Mother Nature (Environment)
The training should take place in a location that is conducive to learning. The environment should be well lit, comfortable, easy to see overhead, and there should be plenty of room for team building activities. Snacks, food, and drinks should be provided to keep the students energy level high.
“The right projects” should be determined based on the needs of the customer. The customer, typically the entity paying for the training, should benefit financially from the training process with and high ROI.
Just as the objective to make projects successful by utilizing the process improvement tools, the training itself should be viewed as a process and open to continuous improvement.
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