Training and development (also labelled as “learning and development”) is always acknowledged as crucial to the success of any business; both in-house and outsourced; whether training courses, on-line learning or executive coaching. Conversely, it is often the first area to feel the cutbacks when times are hard. As a busy executive, it can be challenging to balance the responsibility for developing your team with reducing budgets and focusing on the bottom line. However, think positive, it may not be your responsibility only.

So how do we define training and development (or T&D for short)? How about: equipping people with new skills, knowledge, attitudes or experience which they are then able to apply to their workplace and careers? That’s a nice, broad definition which we can break down into three broad categories:

  1. what people need to do their job as it is today;
  2. what people need to do their job was it will be tomorrow; and
  3. what people need to do the jobs they want in the future.

From this we see that T&D can equip people to do their job, stay abreast of the changing requirements of that job and also help them in their career progression. Therefore, there are clear immediate benefits to the business (the first two categories) and definite future benefits to the individual (their career.) Of course, the individual also benefits from being well-trained in their daily role and the business benefits from developing its own future executives in-house.

At this point, we might want to question this word, “training”, which tends to suggest activity geared towards a specific task or role. It also implies a process that is done to the individual rather than being something that they can fully engage with (after all, dogs are ‘trained’.) Perhaps the better and more inclusive term would be “learning”, which suggests a wider range of options (including mentoring and coaching) and also, perhaps, a wider range of applications.

Returning to the issue of responsibility: if the benefits are shared, shouldn’t the responsibility also be shared? Traditionally, a manager might appraise each team member (sometimes in secret), personally decide what they needed by way of improvement and then prescribe the appropriate off-the-shelf training course. This is a Doctor model, where the manager acts as authority, diagnostician and decision-maker. Within limits, it can be efficient and it certainly saves time, but the lack of involvement of the individual can lead to lack of engagement with the training and therefore a lack of benefit.

These days we see more of a Coach model in which the manager and individual discuss the training needs and make decisions together. The coach guides the individual through the process of identifying and meeting their development needs with an emphasis on which solution will suit both them and the business. Those with particular potential, the ‘rising stars’ may even manage their own development allowance or budget and be free to seek tailored coaching outside the organisation (on the understanding that the results are applied within the organisation.)

Ask yourself how it works in your workplace. Do individuals have development objectives? Are they imposed or agreed? How are development options chosen? Is the criteria solely business efficiency or does it also take into account the individual’s learning style? Is there support available to apply the learning to their role? Are they coached through their career development?

So think positive and engage your team in their own learning. The key factors are: involvement; discussion; business needs and personal aspirations; not just “training” but “learning”; and joint decision-making. That can mean joint success for you and your people.