By Elaine Biech

Every year, most organizations budget money for training — over $70 billion in the United States and over $130 billion worldwide. The volume of money and effort suggests that corporations believe training is important. What do they know about training that justifies this much investment?

For starters, training plays an important role in developing a productive workforce and finely tuning processes to increase profits. Training also helps people and organizations manage change. Because organizations are continuously changing techniques, goals, equipment, people, and locations, all members of the workforce require training to support these changes.

There are four critical aspects of a coordinated comprehensive training approach. In the most efficient organizations, the four are aligned toward the same corporate goals.

  • There is a business need or requirement. This is the starting point. Effective training starts with the clarification (or creation) of organizational goals. This enables the T&D department to provide a strategic approach to the services it offers the organization. Examples of business needs include increasing customer satisfaction, increasing market share, and improving quality.

  • There is a need to improve or change performance. Performance is usually tied to a specific job and a task or set of tasks within that job. It is what the employee must do to achieve the organizational goal. For example, if improving quality is a business goal, each employee must know what process to use to ensure delivery of a quality product or service.

  • There is a need to gain knowledge or to learn new skills. In order to change performance, employees may need to learn something new. This learning may take many forms such as coaching, classroom training, computer-based training (CBT), on-the-job training (OJT), or self-study.

  • There is a need for change in the environment. At times, employees may possess the skills and knowledge required to change their performance, but some aspect of the environment either prevents or discourages individuals from making the change. For example, if an organization’s goal is to improve quality, there will be little change if the reward system focuses on quantity, not quality.

Trainers are involved in providing services that address all these aspects. If you’re a beginning trainer, you’ll most likely start with interventions that deliver knowledge and new skills (the third bullet in the preceding list). This is the traditional “training” role. However, as you grow professionally, you will be required to provide learning or all of the other needs that affect an organization.

You will create and deliver formal and informal learning, instructor-led and self-directed learning, and synchronous and asynchronous training. You will do this in a classroom, online, and on the job.

What do organizations expect to accomplish by investing in training efforts? They desire change in performance of employees in order to:

  • Reduce employee turnover

  • Maintain current customers

  • Create new customers

  • Increase customer satisfaction

  • Reduce errors

  • Reduce expenses

  • Save time

  • Add dollars to the bottom line

There are many reasons people require training in the workplace. Some of these reasons are to:

  • Orient new employees

  • Provide long-term professional development

  • Upgrade knowledge required for the job

  • Introduce new skills to experienced employees

  • Change career paths due to job elimination

But won’t trainers run out of people to train? Not likely. Organizations are required to continually make changes. Technology advances continue to influence how trainers do their jobs. The skilled labor pool continues to shrink worldwide. Thousands of new employees enter the workforce or change jobs every week. That keeps at least a few trainers busy.