How to Establish Training NeedsWednesday, April 11th, 2012
A surprising number of employers do not plan their organisation’s training at all. Many managers, when asked to prepare a training budget, just look at last year’s expenditure, add a bit, then allow people to go on courses that crop up until that budget is exhausted, and that’s training done for the year. Hardly the stuff of good management. If nothing were to change in the world – no new products, processes, materials, changes in customer demand, tax changes – then training maybe would not be so important – but in the real world change happens all the time, therefore skill demands change and as a result well defined training is one of the most critical requirements for the survival and success of any organisation. For this reason employee training must be approached, planned and executed with great thought and care.
Planning training is not unlike producing a cash flow forecast; you need to determine what you will need, when you will need it, and how you will make sure that it is then available. However you will find the job easier and the results more effective if you adjust your mindset and think not in terms of what courses people will require but rather what skills and competencies the organisation will need.
Start with the business plan. This is likely to show predicted activity over the coming few years in broad terms, but in greater planned detail for the coming year. In the light of this business plan, and ignoring for the time being what you have in the way of employees, consider month by month what changes you are likely to need in skill requirements. You may detect, for example that, because of product development, in six months time you will need more electrical and fewer mechanical fitters, or because of changes in the way the market is moving you will need fewer sales people on the road and more telesales people in the office. But again, think in terms of skills rather than jobs. In the second example above, for example, consider that you have a greatly reduced need for people who know how to drive around the realm knocking on people’s doors to sell goods but instead want people who can sell successfully by telephone. Whatever, you should finish up with a calendar covering the year or longer period, showing month by month what new skills will be needed and what existing ones will no longer be of use to you.
Next you should construct a manpower forecast. Chart your existing workforce, then begin to adjust it for the coming period by removing known or predicted retirements and reducing it on the basis of historic turnover rates in various categories. If appropriate adjust it further by any planned recruitment, probable redundancies or redeployments. From this forecast you can produce a calendar showing month by month how many people of various types you are likely to have on your payroll.
Now compare the two calendars. Almost certainly they will not match. Start therefore with the skills requirement calendar and determine to what extent it is met by available skills in the form of existing employees. And even if you have the appropriate people by job title, nevertheless consider whether they are all up to the required skill standard. This will require you to make use of performance appraisal records.
You must now plan to deal with the mismatch. First, do you have surplus skills? If so you have potential redundancies or spare job capacity. Second, do you have skill shortages? Assuming that you have, you need to determine whether you will meet them by recruitment, redeployment, restructuring jobs or retraining. In fact the actions you take may involve a combination of these solutions. In our earlier example your first thought may be to make your outside sales force redundant and recruit instead a telesales team. However it would be more humane, legally safer, and certainly cheaper to persuade the sales force to accept training as telesales people. If they live at the other end of the country, could they work from home, phoning customers and leads, and going out only if necessary? Changes in contractual arrangements doubtless would be necessary, as might negotiations by the employee with ‘er or ’im indoors, but this seems a better solution than major redundancy and recruitment exercises. This exercise should end with the production of a manpower plan showing when you will need to declare redundancies, set about recruitment, or begin to redeploy people.
If people are made redundant, training may not be an issue unless you treat them well by laying on outplacement training to equip them to find alternative work. But in every other case you will need to train the people. Even those recruited from outside will need some, and perhaps a significant amount of, training to equip them for your specific needs. You therefore need to decide the best forms of training for the people concerned. Should you send them on courses, run in-house courses or give them on-the job training? Having worked that out, and using the manpower plan, establish when exactly you should begin each employee’s training. There will of course be dates by which training must begin in order to be completed in time, but budgetary and operational factors may suggest that it be commenced earlier. When this is finished you will have a well thought out and constructed training plan and from this you can calculate a training budget with great accuracy.
But this may well not be the end. First, the best laid schemes of mice and men …..Business plans rarely run exactly as planned, and indeed the longer the forecast, the more likely it is to change as market and other factors fail to perform exactly as predicted. Second, your proposed budget may be rejected at the outset as being too high, or it may be cut back as time goes by because business is worse than predicted. Certainly put up a spirited defence, arguing that challenging times demand a highly skilled and therefore well trained workforce, but ultimately finances may require you to recast your training plan. You may for example find that you can save money by calling in training specialists who can design courses that in fact meet your needs more accurately than external courses, that save the expenses of travelling and accommodation, and that enable you to get more people trained at the same time. Or you may have to prioritise each element of training.
No HR or training officer enjoys truncating a training plan, but if it has been well constructed, it is easier to identify which are the more critical features and which can more readily be removed.