If you’re a training manager you’re probably under pressure to satisfy the complex training needs of employees (your clients) with pressure on the budget available to you. In addition there is now and a fast changing range of training options to choose from as the digital age influences the way training is delivered. My experience is in language training, but hopefully many of the points I’m making are relevant to training programmes in general.
Firstly, it’s important for training decisions to be made within a general strategic plan. That plan may come from Human Resources, but it may equally be influenced by the Business Plan of your organisation as a whole. From a language training point of view it is worth considering how communication with the global community sits with the general strategy of the company. If it is not part of that general strategy we should ask: ‘why not?’. Raising this issue at Board level is a way to secure not only funding, but the prioritization of language training as a priority in the strategic thinking of your organisation. It impacts on selection processes, marketing, sales and the ability of managers and administrators to communicate more efficiently with colleagues, clients and providers in global markets. ROI may be difficult to measure in financial terms, but the importance of communication skills should not be underestimated.
Identifying who requires training as a priority is the next step. Resources need to be directed to optimise the return. That means assessing accurately who within your organisation needs to use English (or other languages) and whether or not their current level of competence is good enough for optimum performance. This leads to the next step: level testing accurately using the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CFER) as the benchmark.
The difference between current level and desired level can be termed the ‘training gap’. Once established we can consider the best way to fill that gap.
Funding may be available to subsidise training. Here in Spain La Fundación Tripartita exists to promote training in the workplace. Every company has credit available to it to subsidise workplace training. Courses can be funded up to 100%. Language training, because it so often involves extensive training programmes, is an ideal way to take advantage efficiently of the credit available.
Incorporate new technology
We should consider how advances in technology can increase the efficiency of training from both a pedagogical and economic point of view. Online learning, and especially Blended Learning (where face-to-face training is combined with some online element), offer new opportunities to maximise the number of people who can access high quality training. It’s really important to select a high quality provider for online learning. It’s effectiveness varies a lot. If it’s good it is highly motivating and facilitates learning. At it’s worst it can be frustrating and de-motivating.
The way we communicate today involves new technology: email is not new, but we increasingly use call conferencing to minimise travel, short messaging on smartphones and a combination of chat and speaking in media like Skype. Feeling comfortable with communication via these media is very important. Incorporating such media into the training programme itself is an ideal way to improve the confidence of users and reduce resistance (often based on fear). Practising in the controlled environment of a training programme is a great way to de-mystify new media.
Once we have selected the most appropriate training programme to fulfill the identified training requirements, it is importnat to measure as accurately as posible the progress being made. I would recommend independent testing instruments, because a provider will always have a vested interest in demonstrating their training programme has been succesful. If independent testing instruments are used the measurement of progress is objective. For language testing in the workplace it is worth considering BULATS (Business Langugage Testing Service) from Cambridge Language assessment.
If participants on training programmes do not respond (non-attendance or non-completed programmes) it should be made clear that future investment in their training will be affected. That is tos ay: they will not receive the option for that training, which is going to impact negatively on their profesional development. Carrot and stick never goes out of fashion when it comes to training.